You know those people in your life that you could only see every few years, and every time you are together again, it’s as if you haven’t missed a beat? I hope everyone has a few friends or family members like that. They are precious and something you never should let go of. Those kinds of people make us feel connected, needed, wanted, and loved. Those people you would stand up for even when you know they’re wrong.
Then other people in our lives are there as a matter of convenience to themselves, the fair-weather friends, the people who seem to tolerate you more than they embrace you. We all know those people too. I don’t know about you, but those kinds of people confuse and drain me. Who knows? In all fairness, it may be mutual. Those people are the ones you wish would speak up and say, “Hey, we just don’t click, your really not my kind of person, not due to any fault of your own, but I just don’t feel we connect.” Wouldnt it be nice if people who seem like they can’t be bothered spending time with you just spoke God’s honest truth and spared you one more lost moment of your life?
As a Gen X person, I find the way we communicate with each other these days mysterious, impersonal, and cold. I see this when Email and text tones are misinterpreted, and Messenger and Instagram messages are left on “seen” and never answered. And phone messages are almost pointless as no one seems to listen to them. In my life, up until 1992, we used telephones. If the phone rang, you answered it. There was phone etiquette, and people appropriately communicated with each other. As a child, I would get excited when the phone rang, and my siblings and I would race to see who could answer it first at the risk of tripping and breaking each other’s limbs tangled in the 6-foot long phone chord ending up in a twister like pile on the floor.
People talked, they cared about what was happening in each other’s lives, and they made an effort. I used to make a point of calling all of my friends at least one time a month. With the invention of answering machines, I was able to leave a message even if no one was home or they couldn’t make it to the phone. I would check-in and say, “Hey, I’m thinking about you.” And in return, I would get a kind call back within 24 hours. I knew the people who returned my calls cared. Sure, people didn’t always answer the phone or call back. The invention of answering machines also allowed people to “screen” their calls, and this is when we found we were able to pick and choose who we wanted to talk to and who we didn’t. If people screened my calls and never called back, then it was pretty clear they were not interested in allowing me to be a part of their lives, and without them uttering a word, I would move on.
I’m taking stock of the people I had thought played essential roles in my life, the lives of my children and us in theirs. Technology, as I see it, is making it easy for people to ghost their friends and family. It has taken the emotion away from communication and made it easy for us to make statements that hurt others because we don’t have to look each other in the eyes or listen to the repercussions of our expressions. This offends me, but it doesn’t offend everyone. My husband says people don’t reply because they’re busy or they may have missed the message. Fair enough, but when I see someone who has ignored my attempt to connect with them who has left me on “seen” for days or weeks, and then I see them taking the time to like and comment on several of the same posts I have on social media or post 20 photos of today’s lunch, their dog and kids, I call bullshit. I saw your TikTok, I see your “Bad Habits,” and though you’re having a good time zoning out thinking your virtual reality is “Good 4 U,” I’m wondering if we’re still friends? Do I know you, I mean really?
When I don’t get a response via text, email, FaceTime call, or phone, I feel canceled. I’m not playing this new communication game. It “gives me the yuck!” We all need to connect with people sincerely. It’s good for our hearts, our mental health, and our souls. If I contact you, it’s because I genuinely care about YOU. If I get no response, I, like most people, will get the picture, feel my heart break a little, and move on; I see you.
Life is too short for silence and blank emotion. Heartfelt faithful and loving relationships are hard to come by, I know but, I’m willing to risk losing my 500 + digital relationships with people I haven’t talked to in over 30 years for a few genuine soul mates who love me for who I am and respect my efforts of nurturing our relationship and time. No left on seen, no ghosting, no canceling, just honest, loving, joy-filled connections with people who cherish me as much as I do them. Is that too much to ask?