I think it’s safe to say that the entire world communicates online.
Ok, I know, there are pygmy tribes that may still use smoke signal to indicate dinner’s on, and perhaps, even the Queen still uses telegraph on occasion, but doesn’t it feel like the whole world is digital and communicates through some messenger, text, or “chat?”
Funny how, even in an episode of “I Love Lucy,” set back in the early 50s, the character Lucy noticed how the television set was the culprit for her, Ricky, and her neighbors lack of spending the evening, talking. Remember those days? …I mean, I don’t, I wasn’t alive, but I remember the talks of it!
Yes, there is a point to all this.
The point is, just as carefree as we are sending a “I’ll call you back,” text, many of us can just as flippantly send (and heavily rely) on texts, chats, and some sort of digital social media messenger to communicate the health of a romantic relationship. By that I mean, instead of communicating face to face with our love interest, we say most things digitally, while when we are face to face, we stay on superficial levels, never really knowing the person we claim to “love.” Then once the true colors, the true personality emerge, we’re shocked and claimed that person “changed.”
Does it sound like I’m talking in code?
“Can we really say that we are “in love” when the foundations of the relationship had yet to be set outside of digital or telecommunication?”
I usually find myself convincing my clients the value of face to face conversation, beyond talking the pleasantries, but to actively listen to their prospective date and listen for the values they may or may not mention in the conversation. Listen to how they say they interact with their peers, and finally, listen for opportunities to establish more meaningful conversation and ask the pertinent questions. Is the person sound ready to begin an equal exchange of respect and love in a relationship with you? Is the person even starting the relationship the way a friend would? (This person is to be your BEST FRIEND for any possibility of mutual love and respect, remember?)
I use the term, “we,” because I am reminded of the first time I had to learn the above lesson. It’s a long story, but hopefully from it, you can learn why I am biased to establishing a healthy foundation OFFLINE with loved ones. Perhaps you will see patterns in your own interactions and be inspired to reduce the usage of digital communication, and have the courage to speak with meaning and pay attention to yourself and those entering your heart.
It was back in the mid 1990s, when I was young and stupid – ehh, I mean, adventurous. I was in my early 20s and although lived a few miles away from family, I was at a point in my life I wanted to be far from them and the town I grew up in, and go beyond the state line. It stayed in the back of my mind, but that’s an important part of this story, so keep it in mind.
One day, I saw an ad to buy into a company that had psychic, sports, and (something else that escapes for now) chat lines. I thought it seemed interesting enough, so I called for myself and my roommate. The representative who answered explained the whole concept. I didn’t purchase the plan (the founder, I believe, is still in prison for embezzlement), however, I convinced him that he should take my number down for his own personal use. (Don’t judge, I really liked his voice.)
Anyway, for the next two months, he and I spoke for 2 to 4 hours every day. I still hadn’t even seen a picture of him at this time, but he represented an “escape from my reality,” (remember earlier I told you to keep that part in your mind to make this part make sense?) I envisioned this man and I, happy together, not really doing anything, but we just weren’t in my town. We talked about EVERYTHING. I felt like I knew him and he knew me. So one day, I shocked him by saying, “you know, who are we fooling? Why don’t I just move over there with you?” He was in Arizona. I was in Virginia and at the time the furthest west I traveled was West Virginia for college. Honestly, at that time, I don’t think I would have listened to him if he said anything opposing the idea. On a subconscious level, I found my ticket out-of-town.
And it was a one way ticket. On the plane ride over, everyone who was in an earshot vicinity of me (and their travel partners), knew of my little excursion and humored me with the excitement rising in me. I explained of our love, and that we had never even met, but we knew it was real. (I cringe now thinking back at the risk…sheesh!)
When we landed, the passengers waited to witness our first meeting, I think some even thumbs up. He was attractive – exactly like a 5’10 version of Shane McMahon from the World Wrestling Federation – but nothing like the blond, surfer-type I pictured. At that point, I was high on elation and felt like I met my perfect match – (Are you remembering my mindset about my reality, though? Are you seeing how I was going to make him fit into the image I created in my mind about him?) Of course, I didn’t realize I doing this, I wasn’t intentionally trying to be a manipulator – I “loved” him. I just had to plan accordingly to make it work.
Keep in mind, this was my mindset. He had his own and because we never discussed that, I’ll only mention being on the receiving end of his mindset.
The first rude awakening I had in the importance of face to face interaction was when I was riding the passenger seat to his driving. He had told me once on the phone that he gets really annoyed with people when they don’t signal when merging into another lane. I agreed, thinking, ‘who doesn’t?’ However, I didn’t know that what that meant it looked like in real life when it happened was him, was him screaming, “WHAT THE F__?!!” pounding on the ceiling of our car, then speeding up to the driver and tailing all the way to when the driver would stop and then proceeded to flick the bird, or jump out of the car and start screaming like a baseball player and umpire.
Or, when he explained that he was a die-hard Dallas Cowboys fan, I thought it was cute because I also followed them. However, in real life with him, I didn’t know that meant us getting kicked out of all the local sports bars in the area, because he’d get confrontational with the patrons who heckled him. Later, when we would stay home and watch the game, whenever Dallas fouled out, he would punch holes in our (apartment) walls.
Yes, we were the couple who would be driving down the freeway and all of a sudden the car would pull over, the woman jump out angrily (me) from the car grabbing bags, with even more thrown out after, and the car speeding off. That was us.
I am proud to say when I met my amazing current husband on Valentine’s Day, who was actually my massage client, we became best friends first. (No, it wasn’t that kind of massage!) I was able to see how he interacted with others, his personal values, his relationship with family, and his outlook on life. He was able to see the same in me, including my work ethic and standard I set for myself to achieve. These were our real selves – without pretension or pleasantries – sharing with each other, encouraging and accepting each other. (Mind you, he really didn’t know my personal life, but he could see my confidence and social activity as I interacted with hundreds of gym members a day.) He confessed one day that since his niece signed him up for a popular dating site, he was nervous to put himself out there and didn’t want his heart broken. I told him, with sincerity, “ for crying out loud, Bob, it’s coffee, not marriage! Ok, we’ll go on a practice date and I’ll tell you do this, no don’t do that when you’re on a date.” (See? Matchmaking was always in me!) He agreed and we had a great time eating, laughing, talking, and just sitting quietly watching people walk by that warm August night.
He would come and see me sing at gigs. It wasn’t long after that I started thinking of him more, but would poo-poo the subject because of him being a client. I asked to meet him again that Monday to speak to him, and it was there that I shared that I was going on casual dates, but had no one that stood out as anything more. I told him I wanted him to know that because I knew he wasn’t dating anyone and I wanted to guard his heart. When he asked to court me, right then and there, I couldn’t refuse. Two weeks later he asked for my hand. We married in December that same year.
While we still are growing as a couple, our foundation was set firmly as friends, then on our shared values. We both are in agreement that divorce is not an option and we work things out. Bob hadn’t even texted before dating me and I set boundaries on how our digital communication would look like saying 1.) No mushy texts/ emails and 2.) No texts after 10pm. The result was guarded hearts and room for us to engage in meaningful conversations.
Ready to go offline? Now the blog is finished. You may leave your comment and then shut of your computer, phone, or pad and start living!
Shakira “Arikah” Baly-Jensen; Wife, Mother, LMT, Author, Performer, Entrepreneur, and Founder of Two Hearts Offline Matchmaking and the new mobile dating app, Two Ships, to find local quality matches encourages uninterrupted offline time with family and friends to build and deepen bonds. Go to www.twoheartsoffline.com for more info. and to contact her. She’d love to hear from you and your story!