Really Relating

man sits on green grass using mobile phone while girlfriend lying on his leg taking selfie
by Vance Larson

It has become painfully obvious to me that we have become a nation of zombies. The amount of time we spend on our computers and checking our phones has dumbed us down. I am guilty of this too. What I have found most interesting is in my counseling practice. Relationship discord and conflict are up nearly 1000 percent. How can this be? Easy. We’re too busy typing and we’re no longer talking.

Have you noticed when you go into a coffee shop that at least half the people in there are on their phones or tablets? Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but a decade ago that same coffee shop would be hosting nearly all person to person conversations. Sure there would be the occasional person there reading a book. But, for the most part, going for coffee was a social engagement. A time to connect with friends and family. We even see it in restaurants. People sitting alone going through their social media. Doesn’t sound too social to me.

What about getting that phone call that you weren’t expecting. Is your first thought, “Can’t you text me like a normal person”? When did human interaction become problematic for so many of us? We have our food delivered to our doors, conversations done via text and finding a date with a swipe to the right or left. It’s lost on so many of us in today’s fast moving society. And there’s a cost.

two friends walking together

While studies show that most people report having 3-5 close friends, the question then becomes, how do we interact with them? At age 52, the way I interact with friends has changed with this zombie nation. I can recall just 15 years ago when having an hour- long phone conversation was special. Now, it is frustrating. So, as I have noticed these problems with my clients, I decided to make some personal changes.

While I do enjoy the convenience of social media, I again appreciate talking on the phone. When I’m with my wife on a date, we have actual conversations that are meaningful. Not every second is noted on Facebook. And speaking of Facebook, all the many friends that I have who I’ve never met, I’ve actually spoken with some, via phone to solidify the connection. I found it important to do this. Why? For many reasons.

Just the other day I was reading up on longevity. Where once the top of the list were things such as quitting smoking, weight, exercise and stress. And believe it or not, that’s no longer the case. Yes, quitting smoking was in the top three, but the top two were related to personal connection and human involvement. In other words, the people who made the century mark, had deep and strong family, friends and community ties. It seems we are far deeper than our weight, diet and sleep patterns.

Yes, I believe we are a zombie nation. The good news though is there’s an antidote. Put the phone down. Get off social media. Go have a meaningful conversation… with a zombie.

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