Building Intimacy in a Digital World

Building Intimacy in a Digital World

Do you prefer to text, rather than call? It seems that most of our daily communication today comes in written form. Why do we prefer to text and email people, instead of calling them? 

Well, does it really matter in the end? After all, if the dry cleaning, groceries or children need to be picked up, does it really warrant a phone call if I can more efficiently just send a text message?  Why waste the extra time listening to the ringing of the phone as you wait for the other person to pick up? Why take the risk of getting stuck in a long and drawn out unrelated conversation?

The answers to these questions start by recognizing that the dawn of a new relationship paradigm is upon us.  

Certainly text-based communication can seem more efficient! However, the benefit of this convenience is often outweighed by the cost.

There is a priceless entity known as human, emotional and social capital. It is what makes relationships – relational.  Without it, everything we do simply becomes transactional. In other words, it is not about simply getting the job done, but the partnerships we build with the people in our lives.

Consider the number of innovative business deals which are born on the golf course, through friendly handshakes, or over drinks.  They blossom out of the relationships, trust and common ground that is shared by like-minded people.  If those same deals were being negotiated on paper by a group of lawyers, they would seldom get off the ground, weighted by transactions, rather than propelled by people.

There is no doubt that texting is far quicker and more convenient, but it is a transactional form of communication.

Texting may suffice to convey ideas, reminders, needs and thoughts, but may simultaneously bypass and even erode the very foundation of the relationship itself.

What if mundane tasks (like picking up the dry cleaning) were embraced as a part of a healthy, meaningful, and supportive give-and-take relationship? Instead of it being a chore, it becomes part of an intimate dance between two people.  This is where daily living can become relational, and actually uplift and strengthen the bonds that people share.

Scientific research has recently observed that when a parent conveys a message to their child over the phone, the brain detects a soothing and almost therapeutic-like quality, which is absent when the exact message is sent to the child via text. That is the power and intimacy of the voice and relational-based communication.

You may have noticed lately that many people have begun using emoticons and Bitmojis (illustrated caricatures of themselves) to add some life and dimension to their text-based messages. Perhaps there is something wonderfully artistic about this, as it gives an opportunity to color a message with a sense of emotion or flavor. 

Yet, deep down it stems from a desire to feel a deeper connection with other people, one which goes far beyond the words themselves. It comes from a yearning to feel more emotion in our interactions.  Perhaps we are striving to ignite a deeper sense of intimacy within the dull and static text-based communications which fill our days. 

Remember, intimacy is the secret glue that binds two people in a relationship.

What is found within intimacy is a secret nonverbal lexicon. It is a dance of communication without words. It is built upon body language, eye contact, inflection and tone, where two people who know and understand each other can enjoy the depth of a secret connection. Unfortunately, this language becomes extinguished in the face of text messages and email, leaving only the hollow words themselves.

What is the answer?  Text less, talk more.

Yet, in today’s high-tech, fast-paced world, we are led to believe that we are too busy to pick up the phone, as if we cannot afford the extra time it will take to speak to someone. 

However, if we are completely honest with ourselves, we will realize that by not constantly strengthening our relationships and investing in our social capital, the cost in the long-run will be far greater to ourselves, our families and society.

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7 Comments Hide Comments

Thoughtful and very well said, Rabbi! You’re largely right and something for all yo think about . Thought: text can be a valuable medium to connect with say a spouse. My wife snd I frequently send each other love notes via text complete with lots of emojis. She often can’t break away at work, so these become a pick me up during the day…love notes for no particular readon

Totally agree. It is so sad that in today’s world a happy face icon substitutes for a real hug. Once hubby and I traveled 5200 miles round trip only to look at our granddaughter’s texting into a cell phone nearly the entire time! .

Technology is addictive and programming us – changing our priorities. We must take time to walk away from the technology and spend time in nature and communicating directly with someone else.

Texting reminders is fine; texting to avoid conversations is damaging to relationships. I Skype with my collaborators far more than we talk on audio, but we DO talk. Complex subjects are easier understood when conversing live. And relationships need conversation to deepen and stay connected.

In this age where we can speak to anyone, anytime and almost anywhere, a text is where we start … however, if one wants to deepen a relationship, then there must be a next step. In person, a telephone call, or as Gail said, in a platform like Skype. I love Skype. The video conference is the bridge between worlds!

I believe peer conditioning has provided us all with a safe sandbox to text in. Because it’s the norm, the loss of feeling for the other person can easily be overlooked. People fill in the missing pieces of the human element and simply create the other person on the other end – and then file them back away until they talk again later.

I have seen firsthand how Millennials are really in a bind over this. Their worlds revolve almost completely around text and there is a REALLY low percentage of human contact, Basic social skills are lacking, especially in managing relationships. They need to learn how to discover the sweet spot between texting and realizing it’s time for a deliberate breakthrough. This is all new territory for parents. Kids are not really trained, confident enough or mentally equipped to dial a number! This is a real problem!

If we could tell our children that when the messages start getting hard to understand, or tempers are being tried, or words are being misread or misunderstood… it’s time to get your voice involved!

I believe it’s possible, with more awareness, that the disconnect that texting has created can be traversed, and rewritten in a better manner. We just have to pay attention and help where it’s needed most. At home first, and then to a bigger audience if possible.

Texting is a legal form and convenient means of communication for friends, especially in this modern world of technology. If two people in love or marriage resort to texting more than calling, something is amiss, worthy an examination!

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