Do you ever wonder why we feel so lonely even though we are constantly connected through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Whatsapp and what have you? We receive e-mails throughout the day. Our phones always have notifications for one thing or another. Our newsfeeds are filled, our push notifications are on, we are constantly updating our lives whilst checking updates on others. It is time you learn how to stop isolating yourself in the ear of technology.
Because, at night when we are sitting all alone with our thoughts and our phones don’t constantly light up, our hearts and our minds fill up with dread. Some of us are sitting across in a room with our loved ones: friends or family, or sitting watching a movie or at dinner with our significant others still busy on our phones, talking to others, but not each other. Why have our behaviour patterns changed so much?
Yet, we complain about not feeling connected to each other, or having had lost interest or some excuse or the others.
I have noticed this in most adults aged between 30-40, who have grown up with mobile phones and especially those who fall into younger age groups: We are all literally slaves to our phones who get a kick out of the notifications. We have no idea how to stop isolating yourself. We wait for it to happen and the minute it does, a part of our brain just lights up and we want to immediately see Who did what? Posted what? Was I mentioned? If that picture was posted? Or why wasn’t that picture posted? Maybe I should delete that picture because it didn’t get enough likes and our thoughts spiral out over something so insignificant.
We go to places far flung, take a bite of something we probably do not like, just to get a perfect picture to put it up on our social media. Or we will be sitting across from a friend who is probably doing the same thing. We won’t have seen each other in days, even months, yet getting the perfect picture and the perfect light and the perfect angle and the perfect caption will be the centre point of that meeting. Sometimes, it really makes me miss the times when mobile phones were basic: texts and calls only. No emails after work, no constantly refreshing ten different types of feeds to satisfy the need to stay connected!
In trying to keep up with social media, I feel like we have lost touch with reality, reasonable expectations and ourselves.
More than anything else, we have lost the art of conversing. We do not know how to have or continue a conversation. We have lost the ability to pick up conversation cues and within that we are fast losing the ability to really listen and understand.
During a recent work meet and greet, I realized an awful habit amongst the bulk of us Pakistanis. Whilst the foreigners socialized properly, with their phones in their bags and their laptops safely tucked away in their laptop bags or their hotel rooms, the locals were busy checking their social media or taking pictures and posting it right away on their Snapchat, Facebook etcetera. A few pictures later, it seemed even to get on my very last nerve. These people had flown in from all over the world to have a sit down and talk to us on a very personal level about the current trade agreements, about the sociopolitical ramifications of these, the lack of law and order and here all we wanted to do was respond at the speed of less than half a second on Whatsapp to friends we were going see later that evening.
This is just one in many examples I noticed in how our behaviour is completely anti-social. Even when we meet said friends later in the evening, we are all sitting busy on our phones, talking to other friends.
So I decided to follow suit and keep my phone in my bag, leave it on silent and try to have a conversation. I wanted to see how to stop isolating yourself. I sat there with my coffee, suddenly quite taken aback and confused since I had completely forgotten how to start or become part of a conversation, something happened: my mind just became relaxed, like someone had taken off my charging wire and set me free. In fact, I became so relaxed, I forgot my bag and started walking across the room and approached a lady whose talk I found quite interesting and with sweaty palms and a shaky voice I introduced myself. I don’t think I had spoken at all that day, so it took some time to get my voice back.
As we started speaking, she was checking her phone, she turned it over, said sorry and just threw it in her bag. We sat there and talked and before we knew it others had joined us, obviously, most of the others were not my fellow locals, and it was time for dinner. All this time I had not thought about my phone even once. It was at this moment that I panicked, everyone started looking for my bag and as the panic pursued the manager came forth with my bag. I checked my phone, called back my mother who was just wondering if I had died, I ensured her I had yet to take my last breath and I’d text her before I did.
The first thing I did upon returning home was delete all social media applications from my phone.
I check them from time to time, but only on my laptop. Furthermore, I switched from an iPad to a Kindle. With all these changes I found myself feeling less grouchy. Morevoer, I found myself wearing less make -up, feeling less aware of how kempt I look for the world, incase I need to tell the world what I am doing. Magically, I started focusing less not selfies and more on things that actually mattered to me.
Best of all, I actually started concentrating more on what my friends and family are talking about when they are talking to me. Not always but about eighty percent of the time, I keep my phone in my bag when I am amongst loved ones. I remember conversations, I don’t feel the need to tweet and share all witticisms and anecdotes on my social media. Sharing them in person is often enough.
So if you, like me, want to stop isolating yourself, keep your phone aside. Take a deep breath and share a slice of cake with a friend over a conversation without the need to share it with the whole world. Really talk to each other. Listen to what they have to say. A real conversation can do wonders for your heart and your soul.