Call me old fashioned, but I think we don’t do enough face to face conversation
And it’s making us into a weird generation that huddles in corners and hunched over screens and feels instant anxiety when our phone rings or someone wants to talk in person.
Social media, I’ve noticed, is making us anti-social.
I’m guilty of this myself – of reducing relationship to an internet connection, or letting a friendship float away in the busyness of life.
And I lost out.
A couple of times recently, people who used to be in my life, passed away before we could reconnect. We had just been talking about reconnecting again, too. We were in the process of making that in-person date to grab a coffee. Then, suddenly, they were gone.
The first was my friend Lyndon. He passed away three days before Christmas.
Over the years we would meet for lunch at Earls, have coffee at Starbucks, and even served on a committee, both endeavoring to serve our clients and raise the bar in our industry. We became good friends.
One year, he even gave me a highly unique gift he designed himself. He had a hobby of designing watches, and had some specially made. I got one of them. Each piece was custom machined with his name on it. Every gear, every pin, and even the custom lacquered box it came in. It was a stunning piece that I kept proudly and safely in its precious box.
The last time we spoke was a few years ago, the day before his surgery. We had a long, heartfelt talk that day. More recently, we’d been sorting out plans to get together again, but he was too sick and it never happened.
“Keep me posted. Let’s get together when you’re feeling up to it,” I’d said.
Little did I know those would be my last words to him.
I was sad it didn’t work out to see him that one last time.
The second was a woman I’d worked with decades ago, when I was first starting out. Her name was Marlise and she and I would man show homes together. For years, we connected this way, crossing paths, sharing information, and tag teaming the show home schedule. Finally, she retired and we lost touch. Years later though, we reconnected on Facebook and kept in touch.
That’s the good part about social media – it does offer a kind of connection. Of course, it was nothing like before. Maybe because we weren’t working together anymore, but I absolutely believe that if we had met in person we’d have found much more to talk about.
After a while of chatting back and forth, we decided we do that – after 20 years, we should really meet in person for a lunch or coffee.
Last year, we were going to do it. We would grab a coffee and get together. But, life happened and it never transpired. We kept touch online though. Then, a couple of months ago, we were talking back and forth, determined once again to connect in person this spring.
A week or so later I saw her number on my phone. I’d missed a call from her. Fully expecting she was calling to finalize our get together details, I was surprised at what happened instead. When I called back, a male voice answered Marlise’s phone.
“Hi. I’m just returning Marlice’s call,” I said.
“No, sorry, Marlise didn’t call you. That was me,” he said, “I’m her boyfriend. I’m sorry to tell you, but Marlise passed away today."
“Yeah,” he said, steadying his voice, “she had collapsed. She had a stroke and died right here.”
I was wordless. Suddenly the world felt like it got smaller. Like it was crushing me a bit. I’d been looking forward to reconnecting with her again – to meeting her fur babies, and showing her pictures of mine. Now it would never happen. I pulled myself together enough to ask when the funeral service would be.
“There won’t be one, Marlise didn't want that.”
I wondered how her family and friends would have felt about that. I wondered how it would affect their feeling closure about it all. I wondered if that decision was a side effect of our anti-social social media, cultivating isolation in us.
I’ve thought a lot lately about how we connect with each other. About how I connect with others.
I’ve connected with friends from all over – I have Vancouver friends, Toronto friends, Calgary friendsf Italy friends, and other people I bump into and knew from high school. That’s the cool part of social media that I love. But it doesn’t replace face to face, voice to voice. Even though I connected with these friends online, I feel like I missed out on knowing them because we didn’t end up connecting in person.
It’s changed me.
Now, I have this resolve in my soul. When I end up in one of those conversations where we say, “we should get together”, I don’t just agree and let time float by anymore. I say, “Great! Let’s pick a day Right Now!”
While I know it’s impossible to connect with everyone – there is only so much time – I can definitely do better. I can make that extra bit of effort to build relationships offline. In real life. And not waste opportunities to know people and to have people know me.
How do you work at maintaining your relationships offline?