Me (texting my grandchild in 30 years): “When I was your age we used to have conversations.”
Grandchild (texting back): “lol granpa ur SO old!”
With technology more advanced than ever, communication between couples must be flourishing… right? Not so much. In fact, advances in telecommunications may actually be hurting relationships– particularly newer couples still getting to know each other.
The problem? Nobody talks anymore. Texting, email, Facebook, etc. have become the vehicles of choice for everything from saying good morning to booty calls. Fewer phone calls are getting made and leaving a voice mail is virtually extinct.
Remember the nerves of going away with someone for the weekend (“Two days together? What will we talk about!?”)? Now I see people suffering that same anxiety over a dinner (“An hour eye to eye? Somebody text me!”)
Don’t get me wrong, fast-food communication has its place– I know a married couple that texts each other while sitting in the same room so their kids don’t know they’re discussing dinner and start screaming suggestions. But the downside seems bigger. Couples argue via text (that’s like using two cans and a string), jokes get misconstrued, even emoticons seem to have 8 different meanings depending on who you ask.
For all the world’s wonderful innovations, there’s just no substitute for speaking live. To talk to someone is to truly experience them– their tone, intention, voice and expression is who they are. It’s the only way you’ll know if they really did “laugh out loud” and, more importantly, what that sounds like. Recently, I learned this lesson firsthand.
I’d met a woman through mutual friends on a trip to Chicago. We only chatted briefly as the night was winding down but she seemed fun. When I got home to NYC, I found her on Facebook (ok, did a little stalking) and sent her an email to say how much I enjoyed meeting. (I didn’t “friend request” her for fear that would be too much but did include my email address.)
My strategy worked as she responded with a sweet email later that day. I did my best to temper my enthusiasm and not write back instantly but cracked by evening. What followed were 17 days of back and forth banter— I spent hours analyzing her emails and crafting the perfect response. We flirted, laughed at ourselves and shared some pretty personal stuff. Seeing her name in my inbox was the highlight of my day. I felt like we were in a relationship.
Three weeks into our courtship came the awesome news that she had a business trip to New York the following week— we’d actually get to see each other! She was only in town for the day so we made plans to get lunch. Secretly I fantasized it would go so well that she’d cancel her flight and spend the night.
That didn’t happen. When we met at the restaurant, she looked more amazing than I remembered. I made some sort of “wow, you’re real” joke. She pinched herself and smiled, “Yup!”
That was the best part of the lunch. Not long after we ordered, it become clear we weren’t sure how to act. At first I attributed this to nerves so I tried to break the ice by asking about her work. I think we were both relieved to have something to discuss but that soon turned into an awkward (and somewhat boring) Q&A. When I finished the interview, I told her a little about my life in New York while the voice in my head whispered “this is not going well”. Out of desperation, I decided to revisit a more personal topic we’d mentioned via email to get over this hump and closer to “us”.
Only there was no us. Instead my attempt brought to light the fact we knew stuff about each other that, now face to face, neither party was comfortable discussing.
My stomach sank. I felt so close to her online yet in person we had no connection. It was like we’d been together six “internet months” but in real life this was our first date. Part of me wanted to take my lunch across the room and email her.
We finished lunch and she had to run back to the office. We both knew it hadn’t gone as hoped and it wasn’t anyone’s fault– we just didn’t click.
In retrospect, the mistake I made was getting ahead of myself. Having only met briefly, I created a whole image of her based on emails. Not that you can’t get to know someone this way but I took it to another level– interpreting sentences the way I wanted to hear them, making assumptions about her based on nothing more than a reference. Like seeing a movie after reading the book on which it was based, she just wasn’t the person I imagined. Actually, I hadn’t imagined a person at all but created a character. And characters only appear in movies.
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