In an increasingly digital and connected world, it would seem that saying close with others is easier than ever, and I believe that in many ways it is. I’m what someone would call a technological optimist, a believer that technology has the potential to make our lives vastly better, especially when it comes to interpersonal relations. However, even the most ardent supporters of technology can’t argue that there are some things we lose as we become more and more digital. In honor of some of the intimacy the social world loses, here are a few things that you probably can’t do with the vast majority of the people you know.
1. Recognize their Handwriting- With the rise of telephones and social media, we simply don’t write letters to each other anymore. While there are plenty of good aspects to this, most notably the ability to easily keep in contact with the people we care about, there are a few aspects of letter writing I wish we still kept around, and recognizing handwriting is one of them. There’s something incredibly intimate in knowing who’s writing just by seeing the way they shape their letters, and it’s a little sad that we can’t do this much anymore
2. Remember their phone number- Let’s face it, even cell phones are largely just platforms for social media now. In a world in which we Facebook message far more often than we call each other, phone numbers are consigned to oblivion, easily and often forgotten. I, personally, can remember the numbers of exactly four people: the three members of my immediate family and my girlfriend. There’s a strange loss in intimacy here, the knowledge that there are now so few people we could simply pick up any phone and call if we wanted to.
3. Visit Easily- This one, on the face of it, seems paradoxical. Today, we can schedule and check in for flights around the world in about 15 minutes, and with all the tools at our disposal it’s easier than ever to visit distant loved ones. On the other hand, though, the number of people we care about whose doors we could simply walk to if we’re having a hard night is lower than it ever has been. A world in which it’s easy to maintain friendships across continents and oceans is also a world that discourages befriending those in our vicinity, and something is decidedly odd about the fact that I find it easier to visit friends on other coasts than to have dinner with my neighbors.
4. Truly Be Yourself- This one might be the most obvious, but it’s worth mentioning all the same. In a world where we have digitally inflated social circles and can preserve friendships across great distances, we often end up having our closest friends far away from us. Because of this, we are surrounded most of the time with people who are largely acquaintances, people from whom we feel the need to hide some aspect of ourselves. Our closest friends in this scenario, the ones who we can unabashedly us around, are those who live far away, and thus we get to truly be ourselves around others rarely. It’s an odd trend, and one that's probably damaging to our sense of self
This is not, of course, to say that technology is ruining our lives or destroying intimacy. After all, the opposite of everything that I just listed is also true, and technology does make intimacy over massive gaps between space and time much more possible. However, an inevitable side-effect of this is that we lose out on other ways of interacting with those we care about, ways that are worth keeping alive. If we are to truly live well with technology, we need to also make efforts to preserve more traditional forms of intimacy even as we embrace the new ones.
With excitement and optimism,