This August, my husband and I will celebrate 21 years of marriage. That’s a rare thing in this day and age. Has it been easy? Of course not. Have we wanted to strangle each other at one point in our marriage? More than once. Has either one of us said “This is not worth it,” but yet we kept on going? Absolutely. Marriage is not easy. Any relationship, whether it is romantic or a mere friendship, takes work and perseverance. It takes running the whole 26.219 miles in the marathon, no matter how much your legs feel like jelly and your lungs desire that much-needed oxygen. It takes riding a bucking bull for the whole 8 seconds, no matter how much you get jerked around, you got to keep holding on. It takes fighting the whole 12 rounds in a boxing match, even though both eyes are almost swollen shut and your arms are exhausted from punching. You can’t expect not to put an effort into something and anticipate it all will be perfect. Nothing in this world comes easy; everything requires a little elbow grease.
My daughter and I had a conversation about how people don’t want to take the time out of their own lives to work to keep relationships healthy. I mentioned to her friendships were stronger before social media became so much a part of everyone’s lives. Nowadays, people would rather text someone, than pick up the phone and actually have a conversation. We’d prefer to have friends on Facebook and have digital interactions instead of meeting for a cup of coffee or an afternoon tea. We would rather send a two-second message to a friend or family member to ask how they are doing, instead of taking time out of our day to see if they are okay, in person. We measure our likability by how many likes or comments we get from our posts on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. Does it really matter how many “thumbs up” or “hearts” we get? It does, to so many people. True friendships are becoming extinct. Our ideals about relationships have become distorted and askew.
As I walk around the mall or eat out at a restaurant, I look at the others around us. Do you know what I see? I see the tops of everyone’s head, because they are not interacting with the individuals they are with, they have disappeared somewhere into the Cyber World in a little hand-held device they’re grasping for dear life. Maybe they’re playing some game, or having a chat with someone they’ve never met. They are taking selfies on Snap Chat, or just scrolling through Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, liking and sharing posts as they go. It is like the world will come to an end if they dare miss a post of a cat video or see what someone has eaten for lunch. If they would only look up, there’s someone whom they can interact with, right in front of them. Someone they can touch and have an intimate, meaningful conversation with. It is a despairing thing to have a sea full of people and all they see is the small speck of algae that is about a thousandth of an inch in diameter. The sea is full of life. All you need to is maneuver yourself out of the deep water and swim toward the surface, where the sparkle of life surrounds you.
My family is just as bad at times. Sometimes I want to throw everyone’s phones as far as I can throw them. Here we are, all together, sitting in our living room and I look around, everyone, including our six-year old is on some sort of device. Our heads are down and everyone is silent. Why are we not having a conversation, playing a game, enjoying the outdoors or even watching a great movie together? Why do we search the web for social interaction satisfaction? I am just as guilty as anyone else, but I am going to do better and “power down” when I am home. More people need to “power down” and enjoy the actual company of a real individual, instead of virtual reality that is not tangible.
Social media can be a great asset for all of us. I am not completely dismissing the whole entity of social media and interactions on the world-wide web. It has created great opportunities for so many people. We are able to know what has happened across the world in a matter of seconds. I am able to see my cousins and watch their children and grand-babies grow up, even though we live so far away from each other. I don’t believe we need to rely solely on having digital ties to virtual individuals more than the actual individuals who are right in front of us and are able to touch. I think people have become seared and callused. We forget how to talk to people. The world has learned to say what they want, do whatever they care to do and offend whomever they choose. We don’t care about other people’s feelings or values. They say the pen is mightier than the sword. This can be a great thing, but it also can be very hurtful. Would we dare say some of the strong and aggressive words we have posted on the internet to someone face to face? Would we have an altercation or quarrelsome engagement with an individual who is standing inches away from us? I guess some of us would, but most of us would choose to use kinder words.
We would be careful of what we say so we don’t cause a scene and make our self look foolish. When we hide behind our computer screens, we think we have the right to say what is on our minds and not care who we offend or scar. Cyber bullying is a new act of harassment none of us ever dreamed would become such a wide-spread problem. People have been intimidating and persecuting other people since the beginning of time, they did it face to face. When they wanted to browbeat someone, the other person was at least able to defend himself in the flesh. Seventy percent of students today report seeing bullying online. It has become so easy and now it is for the whole world to see. I think they feel empowered by bringing someone else down.
Individuals wonder why some of their friends have abandoned them or wonder why after ten or fifteen years, their marriage has failed. Face-to-face conversations is a thing of the past. People do not want to sit down and have an intimate talk about what is going on with an individual. They don’t want to hear about someone’s problems. They don’t even care to hear how their day went. What happened to actually caring about someone other than yourself? What has happened to our world? Will it ever be the same? I’m not sure, but I do know I’m going to do my part to fix the relationships in my life. I’m going to do my best to make sure the people I care about see my eyes as I look them in the face to speak to them. I am going to make sure I pay attention to my family and friends instead of having my head down and peering intently into my digital device. I intend to “power down” every chance I get. It is time to lift my head up and free my mind from the Cyber World and re-enter the real world.
I hope you join me in my quest for digital freedom, and be aware of the people who are right in front of you. When you do lift your head up out of the cloud of cyber dust, you will realize what attributes the world has to offer. When you have a cup of coffee or afternoon tea with a long-lost friend and relish the conversation you will feel rejuvenated. It is great to meet new people from all over the world. It is also fantastic to keeps tabs on friends and family that you don’t get to see very often, but don’t forget to look up and give your undivided attention to those loved ones God granted you the privilege to see face to face everyday.