Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Touching base...

In the age of Twitter and Facebook, when social networking has become a "speed of light" experience...what do we do about spending time with each other?

After my birthday observance wound down, I spent some time this morning on Facebook responding to the many folks who had let me know that they were thinking of me. What was a blessing and a gift for me was how with each name I could see, feel and remember what it was that makes them a special and significant part of my life. What also struck me was how overwhelming it can be to try to keep up with everybody, all the time.

I love being in touch with people, after all I am-as one friend puts it-a "raging extrovert." Hearing from and speaking to people provides energy for me. Reading and responding to those birthday wishes was a tonic. It also pushed me into a reverie. Remembering days in my life that were of a slower pace, I recount how I actually spent time writing letters to people. I had stationary, and would take the time out of a day to correspond with people that I lived some distance from, and yet were in some way significant in my life.

That, by the way, was the way most people were in touch with their family and friends just a quarter century ago. Picking up the phone for long distance cost money. There was no resource like cellular communication or electronic mail. One couldn't just broadcast their own life to their loved ones. You actually had to think about it, sit down and take out paper and pen and write what you were thinking and feeling about another person. Then, you had to get it to them in the mail. Go figure.

Now, I am truly a child of the present moment. This is not some Luddite reminiscence about "the good old days" to any extent. But, it is a moment of reflection on how little time I actually take out of my day to compose a thought with the intent of offering it up to a friend or acquaintance. It seems that impulse governs the way I "reach out and touch someone" much more so now, today, than it did just a couple of short decades ago. While communications have become more efficient, I fear that I have slipped into a lazier and more reactive way of connecting with people who are now only an easy click away.

My grandmother has a box of letters from over a century ago, letters written from one relative to another. Nothing too remarkable, really, just inquiries of health and reports of what happened in the life of one cousin since the last exchange of posts...but there is such an atmosphere of intention that flows from those pages. In an age when connection can just be taken for granted, I guess I have lost one of the things I treasured...that words and thoughts extended to another over space and time could actually build intimacy as well as improve connectivity.

Something to think about...and I believe it is time for me to turn to my desk and put my pen where my keyboard is and write a few letters.

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