At first blush, in a world with Facebook and Linked In, it may seem to be easier than ever before to connect with people. Yet, I think it’s actually more difficult than ever.
Today when we want to call someone a friend, we need only click a few keys on the keyboard and – voila – friends! What could be easier than that?! Yet, all this clickable friendship has allowed us to hide from both the work and the pleasures of real intimacy, making them seem difficult by comparison. It’s crippled our social capability. Amid our hundreds of online friends, how many real ones do we still have? Isn’t it easier to send an email than to make a phone call? Or easier to call than to show up in person? Do we still have the time for real connection? Can we make the time?
The author Matthew Kelly uses the phrase “carefree timelessness” to describe the truest state of connection. It calls to mind images of being together without watching a clock or having an objective – just being. To experience carefree timelessness, you need to ditch the agenda and just while away some time with someone you love. Kids are great at this – they play. Teenagers hang out. What do we do as adults? We schedule. Or we click away at a keyboard.
The benefits of real connection are powerful but we just can’t fully experience them over the internet. I’m as grateful as anyone for the quick and easy way Facebook has provided to stay up to date on the latest life events and some of the day-to-day minutae of a wide circle of my friends. But those interactions online pale in comparison to even one real conversation.
I was reminded of that this weekend when I had the pleasure of hosting a dear friend and her daughter for dinner and a visit. In ten years I’ve seen her only a handful of times, and this was the first in more than 3 years. What a joy it was to sit with her, to share a meal, to have a real conversation, to get to hug her and her precious little girl. Are we connected on Facebook? You bet. But is it the same? Not a chance.
To live our very best lives, to fulfill our potential, we need these real-life interactions, these connections. They feed our very souls, those long, meandering conversations with a friend, the exuberant playtime with a child, the unhurried meal with a parent, the two-way, agenda-free, honest, give-and-take with a spouse. They reveal our truest selves. And we must know our true selves to live with authenticity.
So, beyond the friend requests that now fill your inbox and mine, our intention must remain the same – to seek out and cherish those real connections within our mostly clickable lives.