Really… stop looking at your phone and make eye contact!

“Literary fiction exercises a reader’s imagination in matters of character and emotional nuances.” ~Sherry Turkle

When was the last time you noticed emotional nuances? The reply should be just now, or two minutes ago, or whatever is the last amount of time you spent in the room with another person. Every second we stand before another person we are giving off emotional cues about our inner, unspoken feelings that add to the conversation and our ability to build empathy. That is totally lost in the digital age.  By spending so much time with screens in front of our faces we lose out on the nuances of body language.

Imagine  this: Lets say we are sitting together in a room and you declare  “Let’s go see The Shack!”   I slap my hand down on the arm of my chair, point to the ceiling,  nod and say “Great. Lets do that. What time?”  What feeling do you get? Lets say instead, I reply by rolling my eyes, hanging my head to my shoulder, stare at the floor, then say “Great. Lets do that. What time?”  What feeling do you get?

In the first instance, body language would show enthusiasm and engagement; in the second disengagement, boredom, maybe even disgust.

Now imagine a screen in front of you and you type the same question to the person on the opposite end. All you see are letters forming the words, “Great. Lets do that. What time?”  Sans any visual clues you have zero idea of what is really being thought and felt. Without this type of engagement, where we get to read another person’s body cues, there is only so far empathy can build. It’s common knowledge that using all caps means someone is yelling at you–but are they really angry? Can you see their pupils dilate or their fists clench? If you type something funny is the person really “ROTFL” or are they sitting there stone-face, bored and saying that to humor you?  A problems existing in today’s world is that folks are forgetting the importance of being together. What suffers is empathy. Reading body language builds connection.

Turkle wrote of something called “disconnection anxiety.” That’s a phenomenon of when people who are always plugged in to there phones, emails, or computers finally get to be alone–they can’t handle it. Concentration suffers, boredom sets and the fear of falling off the radar becomes too much. Alone–is the worst thing possible. When there is a constants stream of  blogs to read, emails to check and things to like on Facebook or Twitter, there is little time being spent on just being quiet enough to understand the benefits of true solitude.

Too much time spent focused online or on phones leads to an inability to take time for oneself. And, if one cant take time for oneself, how can they take time for another?

Something to ponder as Lent continues….

crossposted over at Strong Finds Power

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