As a little girl, Curly Baby came everywhere with me. Apart from the one time that I threw her out the car window to prove to my mother that she could fly, followed by a panic attack when she surprisingly could not, that Precious Moments doll never left my side. I cuddled her, clothed her, bathed her and would not let anyone else take care of her.
I started thinking today of if I had a companion now that is as constant as Curly Baby; something that I am unable to put down, unable to go anywhere without, something that leaves me full of anxiety when I misplace it. Well now I am not so proud. My cellphone.
This piece of screws and bytes holds my life together. I leave it by my head to fall asleep at night, I check it three or four times in one sitting, I scavenge for it when I hear the text message tone. A lot of us are guilty of this. The rebuttal to the argument that this little gadget owns our lives: it keeps us in touch with the ones we love and the ones that are far away from us.
Call Hallmark because this is about to get touching.
Two summers ago I did some hours at a nursing home where I sat around a table and chatted with the old ladies believing I finally found the place where I fit in. At one point I checked my cell phone and the lady next to me asked what I was doing.
Me: Oh, just checking to see if a friend of mine returned my call.
Lady: I just don’t understand your generation today.
Me: Why? (intrigued per usual)
Lady: When I was a little girl we didn’t have all of these things. My grand children all talk to their “best friends” through a computer screen. That is not a friendship. You need to be able to hug your best friend, kiss your best friend, smell your best friend.
That lady taught me a valuable lesson, that friendship and tight-knit relationships are cultivated through face to face interaction, laughing at one another’s stupid mistakes, being there to actually see those stupid mistakes. We cultivate these lasting relationships through holding hands, seeing the other person cry, hurting their feelings but being able to read from their face that we have hurt them and feeling our stomachs sink.
We don’t get this from a text message. We don’t form lasting connections through an artificial connection. And I realized today that I am tying myself to these artificial connections, binding myself through these 140 character conversations. Taking real and true emotions and forcing them into a small space that travels through hundreds of miles to another person’s screen. And I call this friendship.
Now I am not cursing the cell phone, the Facebook or the email account. These innovations have done wonders for keeping us all in touch with one another and helping us root up buried pasts, but at some point we should draw a line. We should say, “let’s save this conversation for when we talk in person.” Or we should say to someone, “You know, I want to save learning your favorite color or your biggest passions for when I am sitting across from you, where I can see your face light up as you talk about it.” Or “I want to save the I love you’s for when I am lying next to you, feeling your hand slip into mine.”
We should draw these lines and see how much more fruitful life becomes.
And when distance sets us apart and we have to be away from those we love, let’s get a little creative and write a letter. Hand written. About something or about nothing at all. Do me favor, if I know you, send me your address and I will send you a letter. I want to write you a letter. Heck, even if I don’t know you send me your address and I will write you a letter. But once I write the letter to you, you must pass it on and write a letter to someone else. Deal? But I am serious. Email me your address at firstname.lastname@example.org, or reply to this post with it.
And if you find the chance, put down the phone and Twitter in the next few days and enjoy those around you, the ones that you are blessed to have. As for me, I will be seeing my best friend tonight for the first time since Thanksgiving and I plan to hug her, and spend real time with her as I sit across from her, and maybe even smell her.