We seem to thrive so much on cyberspace that we are forgetting very fast what it was like to thrive on tangible human attention from those around us, and vice versa. It is as necessary and vital to maintain this type of tangible relationship with others as it is for you to maintain proper hygiene.
Do you have friends?
No! I don’t mean friends on Facebook. I mean real friends that you actually talk to face-to-face. Like someone, you would go out to ice cream with or take a long drive on a long summer afternoon on the shoreline. That’s the type of friend I’m talking about.
While we have advanced technologically, we have regressed socially. Our internet-based world has made us less in touch with the reality around us, less in touch with our loved ones, and less in touch with ourselves.
Yes, the internet and other forms of technology have become more than necessary in this generation and that’s just the way it’s going to be. But it doesn’t have to change who we are. We can still reach back to ideas from the past, implement them now in the present, and pave the way for a better future.
Here’s something very important to remember…
Real relationships are tangible. Not virtual.
There are ways to accomplish this even in 2020. Here are 5 ways to improve our interpersonal relationships as we try to slightly detach ourselves from technological distraction.
Try any of the things I will mention and tell me if it hasn’t improved your relationships with your friends and loved ones. These things are guaranteed to help you make a human relationship something real and meaningful in an era that’s slowly forgetting what that means.
- Don’t use your smartphone/laptop/tablet etc. when your kids are around. Assuming that your main reason for owning such devices are for business, they should only be used when you are working, and your kids aren’t vying for your attention. This also holds true even if the device you own (iPhone/smartphone, iPad, tablet, etc.) is simply for pleasure. At the end of the day, kids actually thrive on the undivided attention their parents give them. And chances are that we’re all using these devices as an outlet and not always as a means of doing our work or anything of tremendous value. Which brings me to my next suggestion…
- Leave your work-related devices at work. There used to be an expression that went something like “leave business in the office.” Implying that home and work are two separate worlds and are supposed to be kept that way. This may be hard to accomplish in 2020 since we tend to carry our work around with us wherever we go. But, as hard as it may be, leaving your work phone and laptop in the office allows you a certain freedom to focus on your friends and family without being worried about incoming work emails and notifications after you’ve left the office. If you can, get a separate personal phone that only your family and close friends can reach you on. That way, you won’t feel bombarded from work when you are spending time with them and nurture those relationships undisturbed. (Just a thought: NEVER give out your personal number, home or cell, to anyone you don’t want to be bothered by once you’ve left the office. It’s very peaceful knowing that they can’t bother you until 9AM tomorrow!).
- Limit the use of social media (like Facebook and Twitter) to your laptop. This may not be so feasible for most human beings in this generation, but it’s worth a shot. Most people cannot pay attention to anyone around them because, 90% of the time, their heads are in their phones following up with every notification from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and even LinkedIn! I mean, isn’t having texting, email, and WhatsApp on your phone more than overkill for your brain? And then on top of that you’re going to busy yourself with all the social media apps?! Yes, I’m sure some of us have very important reasons to have these apps on our phones, but let’s be honest. Most of the time, it’s for recreational reasons. If you have no pressing reason to have these apps on your phone, chances are that you can do without them for the time being. Limiting social media activity to your computer allows you to have a set time and place when to deal with it and not be bothered with it when your children or spouse are trying to get your attention. It’s easy to walk around the house while using your phone, but you can’t while using your laptop. It’ll also bring you a lot of peace of mind not being bombarded with so much stuff all the time. (Refer to #2 above about leaving work related devices at work, not at home).
- Put the phone on vibrate, silent, or power off when spending time with your spouse or children. Similar to #1, it has a slightly different edge, which is that family time must be pure, undiluted, and–most of all–focused. If a guy is on an outing with his wife and/or kids, and he can’t put down his phone for a second, the following things come to light: 1) He is addicted to his phone 2) His family is not all that important. Not exactly the vibes you want to be sending to your family. Your family expects you to focus on them when you are with them. Nothing, not even your phone, should get in the way of that.
- Write letters. No! I don’t mean emails. Handwritten letters. Yes, you may think it’s a relic of the past. But handwritten letters convey a certain type of intimacy that an email could never encapsulate. In a handwritten letter, you throw your heart and soul into every word and expression. You can also do fun and creative things with your writing that you could never do in an email. This type of emotion and passion is only something you can share with someone you love or someone who is a reckoning force in your life. Get in the habit of writing a real emotional note to your spouse or other loved ones. It will hit home so much more than a text or an email and will have so much more sentimental value. Remember pen pals? Also a relic of the past waiting to be revived. Start with your kids and encourage them to write to their friends and people they care about. Besides for strengthening their writing skills, they learn what it means to keep a connection and put effort into it without the instant gratification aspect. And you can do it too! Pick up a pen and paper, and write to someone important in your life, the way it used to be done. You’ll feel a stronger emotional connection with that person and they in turn will feel the effort you have put into it. And before you know it, it may become your next healthy outlet and a new way to appreciate those in your life.
I think you have the idea at this point. Any effort we make to improve our interpersonal relationships is nothing short of priceless. At the end of the day, we need each other both physically and emotionally. But not virtually! Virtual sounds good in the moment, but it doesn’t make for a real, everlasting relationship.
I challenge you, my dear reader: make use of any of these suggestions and see the results of the relationship you’re looking to have with someone else. You may be surprised to find out what was getting in the way of that relationship the whole time. (You can leave your experiences in the comments at the end of this article).
Sometimes, you need to disconnect in order to reconnect.
Let’s do it today. Let’s distance ourselves from cyberspace when we don’t have to be there. Even for as little as a half-hour to one hour away from it, we may actually find a sense of liberation and calm being able to connect fully with those who are truly closest to us. We will then find and cherish a truly rewarding, tangible relationship.