How to text without losing your ability to connect

By Berkson


I remember a line from the comedy “Bun Heads” where a dancer from the east coast is in L.A. trying to “make it” and is on the phone with her friends back home. They ask, “What’s L.A. like?”

She bemoans, “Nobody eats carbs any more!”

It’s similar with conversations. Most of us don’t speak words anymore. We text. Texting is the new talking. We type. We send emails all day long. And in doing so, what is happening to good old “talking in the wild” human connection?

Apparently a lot of people are noticing that while we are more and more social, we are actually getting more and more antisocial.

I met Meg, the wellness director from People’s Pharmacy in Westlake, Texas, a long red-haired beauty with bright red lips, at Casa De Luz, the communal vegan restaurant in south Austin. Last night I went with her to a new phenomena called circling— a spiritual modality of folks coming together to connect on a real level. They feel that while we work hard, text more, email more, reach out more, deep inside many of us are isolated, lonely, and not feeling seen, heard, or connected.

I had no idea what to expect. It was a balmy evening and we first had hibiscus tea in the communal rooms, past the walkway through the trees lit year round with sparkling white Xmas lights. Then we walked up the stairs to the Cielo South meeting room, where 40 people in their late 20s to their early 60s had gathered. When I asked why they were there, the consensus answer was they felt a lack of connection in their lives and thought this might be an answer. Perhaps this meet-up, which wasn’t a church, bowling league, Scrabble group, or bar, might lube them away from loneliness towards more togetherness.

Connection between human beings is part of well-being. Health is not only what we put into our mouths, how much we grunt through high interval bursts, or sprint walk around the park, but also how we perceive and enjoy being connected to family, community, and close friends. Yet, in today’s society, we often interact more with our technology—our phones, tablets, computers, and social media—than we do with each other, one-on-one.

It used to be if you were stranded at an airport due to cancelled flights, you would find groups of people chatting, laughing, and connecting with each other. Now there is silence. Everyone is Velcroed to his or her phone. The other evening I was at an event and several parents had brought along their kids. The kids sat on the couches, phones in hand, heads down, glued to the screens, the LED light shining uniformly and eerily on each of their faces. If you bump into a family at a restaurant and you want to say hello to everyone, it is often difficult for the parents to get their children’s attention off the phone to interact with you, let alone achieve eye contact and exchange a few words with you.

Social media creates a huge outreach, but it comes with masks. Due to exposure to larger groups of anonymous people, we tend to act in ways that are not necessarily authentic; we present ourselves as we want to be seen by others. We’re shrouded in masks, so it’s easy to get out of the authenticity habit. We may text to many, email to many, but all the while we may be less present and less real.

When we communicate by text and email, we have huge control to edit, delete, and easily shut off the phone or the computer. We can multi-task, watching the TV or computer screen or writing yet another email while texting. We don’t have to focus our full attention on what we are trying to communicate. We don’t have to fully commit to that communication.

There are those who are skillful at texting on the phone while at the same time holding eye contact with others, but the eye contact is not full focus. It diverts often to the phone and barely suggests you are meeting eye to eye. Eye contact is not what it used to be. How eerie is that?

This controlled connection contrasts with true human connection. When you connect with another human, in person, you meet eye to eye. You don’t know where the conversation will eventually take you. Human interaction is messier than it is on your phone or computer. It calls upon you to give more energy, to be more present and make a commitment for the moment, to be here now, not to be several places at once with small bits of yourself in each of them.

Texting takes less energy, less commitment, and connects less genuinely. But we are all practicing it like crazy.

All the while, the health of your soul demands true connection. Therefore, we have more and more people who, within their technological flurry, are privately isolated and lonely. More people are depressed. More people are on mood medications. They experience anger but aren’t sure why. Aggressive behavior, tailgating, and kids with no impulsivity control are rampant. Adults work longer hours, scurry to fit in buying veggies and perhaps an hour at the gym, but at the end of the day they often feel less connected, less fulfilled, and wind up thinking about renewing their anti-depressant prescriptions.

Because of this new “isness”—more social outreach resulting in more personal emptiness— we’re seeing some backlash. Like Circling.

We sat looking into each other’s eyes and then discussed what we saw or felt in the other. It focused on being present, trying to see and be seen. This reminded me a lot of Esalen in Big Sur back in the 60s. I had gone there in my late teens with Fritz Perls and his Gestalt therapy and Ann Halpern and her deepening of being through movement. When a society is focused more on the outside and less on the inside, we find ways to grab back the missing feeling of community and of not being alone.

In the 60’s we called it “dropping out.” Corporate America was Big Brother and didn’t see individuals. We dropped out to drop in . . . into connection. Now our love affair with technology calls upon us to drop out of these cyber labyrinths long enough to feel real.

Here are three things you might check to make sure your phone isn’t more important than your lover:

  1. Is your phone the last thing you look at before going to bed or the first thing you look at when you wake up in the morning? This is a yellow warning light that you are losing human connection.
  2. Do you look someone in the eye when talking to them and really listen to what they are saying? Or are you thinking about what you are going to say next?
  3. Do you text while talking or look at your phone more than once during a conversation with a friend or colleague? This is a flashing red light that you must run, not walk, to the nearest circling gathering or some facilitator or group, or grab a book that will help you get out of your head and into each other.

After studying the science of connection, I discovered that nature gifts the human body with brain-healthy chemicals. But today, with the prevalence of chemical toxicity and mesmerizing technology, we have more busyness yet less tangible connectedness. Learning that connection is part of health and happiness is one thing. Finding out what sabotages it and avoiding or clearing those issues is another thing. That’s why I wrote the book called SEXY BRAIN—to show you how to enjoy the benefits of true connection on all levels of mind, body, and spirit.

It is your birthright to have connection. It is a foundational part of your path toward being healthy, happy, and wise. Without sincere connectedness, the resonance of life is shallow. All the money in your bank or the length of your resume can’t make up for a heart not deeply touched and lived. So when you take inventory of your life, as all wise beings should do on a regular basis, note if you enjoy and benefit from many deeply authentic connections. If it is meager, put that on your list next to veggies and joining that gym. Intimacy, connectedness, and empathy—feeling “part of” the whole—is a pillar of health you can’t buy at a store or achieve with digital typing.

Texting is the New Talking

SEXY BRAIN – how sizzling intimacy and balanced hormones prevent Alzheimer’s, cancer, depression, and divorce.