March 11, 2013
One of the biggest surprises and highlights of our family cruise from which we returned yesterday, was how we were “charged” and energized by 8 days without texting. It is commonly known that roaming charges off the grid are astronomical, and the bandwidth onboard a cruise ship should not even be called bandwidth; the “bandwidth” is very slim. While we roamed, we engaged, connected, shared, touched, and became charged by non-virtual connection – face-to-face - the old fashioned way. Wow, what an exhilarating phenomenon for all of us –especially the college students who are fluent in Textese.
My husband and I immediately noticed that we were not looking at the part lines on the top of our kids’ heads; we were actually speaking to them while looking into their eyes. Perhaps Verizon and AT&T are doing us a favor: making quality time a pricey endeavor by demanding a hefty surcharge at approximately $3.03 per text.
And it got me to thinking of how Roaming Charges ironically provide tremendous value to our lives. Here is the priceless gift we received for our 8 day “non-virtual immersion” course:
- F2F conversations with our loved ones
- Solution seeking opportunities: kids plan meet-ups without texting, practice social skills in a non-virtual setting, and meet people the old fashioned way with verbal communication
- Presence: mindful thoughts are occupied with the present – no virtual distractions for escape/withdrawal
- Widening creative possibilities: looking forward and up; spanning horizons for new possibilities
- Fine motor skill break: thumbs and fingers were also on vacation
- Challenges: being off the grid opens gateways for new risks and challenges to inspire us
- Develop proficiency in nonverbal human communication: body language, micro expressions and intonation
One of our twenty-something children sported a pen and ink party invitation on his arm (pictured above), which speaks to the desire to belong, to be included, and to share interpersonal connection. With offline behavior being in the back seat of much of our daily interaction, I believe many of us are starved for “real time” experiences.
The human desire to connect serves an essential purpose: it overrides any fears, inhibitions, and obstacles that are often virtually subsumed by digital natives. When confronted with an awkward social scenario, it is very easy for many of us to cast a downward glance to the Holy Grail of technology – the cell phone – the eyeball landing page for all of our uneasiness and discomfort. There in the palm of our hands, we can redirect our sense of feeling negative emotion with a focus on the cell phone.
This escape into technology affords many of us an instant opportunity to divert managing and dealing with uncomfortable emotions that are part of our human experience. Sometimes, we don’t allow ourselves the opportunity to practice working through the slight awkwardness that arises when we are in unfamiliar social territory. So, we immediately bail by looking away and having an immediate container for our discomfort – the coveted smart phone.
We do this not because we are lazy, but because we are out of practice with human face-to-face exchanges. And rather than stepping into a place of unfamiliarity, we have a knee jerk response to shirk the opportunity and slink away into our well honed virtual relationships. We miss the essential component of our human interaction – the body language and voice inflection that reveals 93% of the human spirit. The words are mostly irrelevant, accounting for a mere 7% of our communication.
How refreshing it was to see our offspring - spring into a somewhat unpracticed human dynamic with courage and resourcefulness. They enjoyed finding - their new/our old - ways to communicate. Their discovery gave them a new language to speak, and while they may be at a 200 level, we have no doubt that they will become fluent - and charged as they roam - with more immersion into F2F communication.