Look up from your phone: what we lose when we lose eye contact

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”~Romans 12:15

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

Cannot believe found candle that looked just like that darn thing….

Jennifer here…stepping in to take over the blog again because the more I learn about the power of empathy, the more I have to speak out about it. I was sharing a lot about my thoughts on this topic  (among other things that happen in the life of an author with Pure-O, OCD) on the blog on my website, but thought this topic is something worth posting over here too. One of the many things that connected Linda and I early on was our ability to converse.. We’d spend hours on end sitting in the dark on a dorm room floor, a sea-foam green pillar candle lit between us, having extraordinarily rich and deep conversations.  Anyone who has spent time with Linda knows how engaging of a personality she is. The woman  is infectious, in a good way! Whenever one of us would mention the need for that candle during the day, we knew we’d be in for either an enlightening night… or a rough one.

We fed off each other. We read  body language and that spurred more conversation.

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.

Sherry Turkle of “Reclaiming Conversation” 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?

God created us to be in relationships with one another, and most of all, in a relationship with Him. Let’s not lose site of what it means to feed off our emotional nuances. That “like” on Facebook is not the measure of your popularity or worth and that email can wait. So much more can be learned by the subtle tilt of a head or flash of a smile.

Sit down with someone today without a phone or computer nearby. It matters.

Something to ponder as Lent continues….




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