Connected, but not always connecting

by Breanna Adamick

In this highly technological and fast-paced world we live in, it can seem difficult to form genuine connections. So often we are behind our phone screens as we walk, talk or exist in a social setting. With everyone so plugged in and “connected” all the time wherever they go, what forms the basis of a genuine connection anymore?

Anyone can talk to anyone online at any given time. Through a tweet, dm, a somewhat impersonal tag in a comment or post, a swipe on a dating app. How well can you really get to know someone through a phone screen, though? There is something to be said for real, in-person human interaction, and it is something that seems less practiced in more recent generations.

In talking with family and friends who are part of a very different generation than my own, interactions occurred in a more natural and often spontaneous way. It seemed like there was just generally less rhyme or reason as to striking up a conversation with another person. Nowadays, it can feel like you need a valid or obvious excuse. Back then it was just normal.

Effort and repeated exposure to a person, or people, that you wanted to get to know was often the main lead-up to a more substantial relationship. Typically, one did not simply go up to another and ask for their telephone number – there was more cultivation of acquaintances before that point – whereas today, that can often be a first step in a person’s approach to friendship, sometimes with almost no interaction beforehand.

I am not saying that in-person, spontaneous interactions and meetings no longer happen, but they are certainly less frequent. I have occasionally received messages from peers who happened to see me in the moments walking between classes or sitting somewhere eating lunch. They might send me a quick message later that day saying they saw me and asking how I am and such. While that is a nice gesture, and someone inquiring after me can often make me smile, I have lingering questions.

Such as, why did they not approach me in-person to ask these questions, or have a brief conversation? Is it something to do with me, do they not know how to approach me; or is it purely the most normal thing these days to text someone later instead of approaching them?

Balking at face-to-face interaction feels like a newer concept, since just about anyone can be found online if you decide you want to talk to them later after all. When the internet did not exist, if you wanted to get to know someone, you had to step up and talk to them then and there. While that can be an especially difficult thing to do for an individual with anxiety, or someone extremely introverted, I believe it is a good thing to attempt, for the experience and to overcome some of the fear.

Besides anxiety and introversion, however, there is something I believe to be a more predominant factor. It can be daunting or intimidating to just go up to someone, introduce yourself and strike up a conversation. We often need to overcome the feeling of being judged, perhaps negatively by others, on our appearance, apparent mannerisms, anything, really. With the semi-constant feeling of being judged in a social setting, there is a slight inclination to point the blame at least partially at the technological and social media savvy society around us.

Everyone has a cell phone, and therefore a recording device. We so often see videos online about other people doing silly, stupid and embarrassing things. Some are staged for amusement purposes, but others are raw moments caught without the subject’s awareness. With the knowledge that anything can be captured and sent out to the world at any time, why would there not be some form of unease or lingering feeling of being judged in quite a few individuals’ minds? It seems to take a lot for us to set aside our phones for any given amount of time and just let life happen without every moment and everything being documented or captured.

The amount of time we spend online and on social media, constantly casting judgment and inserting opinions where they don’t belong, has seeped into daily life even away from our phones. And while there are some people largely unaffected by this sort of pressure, without a care for what others may think of them, there are always those who do care, and who are affected.

With a little more thought and care put into interaction both online and in-person, perhaps it would not be so daunting for people to be more open, more themselves and unafraid to try and connect with people more genuinely face-to-face.

There is a certain boldness required to cast the anxious or judged feeling aside and go up and speak to someone. I have very much felt that way before, but I have also ignored it and gone to talk with people anyway. It can be scary, especially for someone introverted like myself; but overall, it is also liberating and often rewarding when looking back on it. And you never know, one brief question or sentence to someone could strike up a whole conversation and even begin a wonderful friendship.

My challenge to you is this: the next time you see someone you know, or think you would like to know, go up to them and say something. Repress the urge to simply walk by or just contact them later, when you are safe behind a phone screen. Be bold and speak to them face-to-face; you never know what good things could transpire because of that simple, small action.


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