Communication Technology And Its Pitfalls
NYT columnist David Brooks and I disagree on mostly… everything, but a recent column of his “Leaving and Cleaving” sheds light on the communication dilemmas triggered by technology. Today a breakup or unsalvageable friendship is mired in constant awareness — a self-imposed recognition of what the other is still doing.
Today, we are all just a text, phone call, or Instagram like away. We’ve developed precarious dependencies on social media for affirmation, and rapid text message responses have become our key signal into one another’s level of interest. As Brooks asserts, “relationships are often defined by the frequency and intensity of communication between two people.” Once that frequency diminishes we take that as the fateful signal.
Immediate gratification has permeated all aspects of our lives, including relationships. We’ve become accustomed to alerts on our phones symbolizing recognition of our message (or existence), resulting in unnecessary anxieties. “His name was once constant on his friend’s phone screen,” Brooks writes, “but now it is rare and the void is a wound.” The void, or ostensible emptiness, becomes the object we fear the most. If a relationship isn’t destined to last, the messages are destined to cease, and our fleeting, superficial sense of affirmation quickly dissipates.
We are left with a challenge. How do our lives continue when we can never fully detach? Sure, an ending to any relationship takes time to recover from, but how do we truly heal when we still strategize our selfies in hopes that the other is still reviewing them? Not possible, and certainly why most people linger for too long.
Emotional pain is so much greater when a once intimate conversation fades away into simple banter, “emotional distance or just a void,” Brooks notes. Technology has made it all the more possible to indulge, to give in to the voices in our heads encouraging us to plead for continued intimacy or “doing the other embarrassing things that wine, late nights and instant communications make possible.”
We must persevere against the communication technology that has made us overly-committed too soon, fearful and anxious, and unable or fully move on. Today we must learn that when relationships have reached their peak, they are sometimes meant to end. Difficult as it may be, we must have the courage to fully disconnect.