The nature of relationships has changed and there is no going back. Yes, we still need to gather around the hearth with our buds, share a meal and a warm hug, but being completely present in a physical gathering maybe a thing of the past.
To my dismay, I recently discovered that the younger members of our clan can manage at least five simultaneous text conversations on their phones while speaking to me. Their bodies are present, but apparently their minds are seeking signs of life from far flung cyber-friends, or their i-tribe. With every screen tap they desperately need to know:
- Is everything Ok?
- Did I miss anything?
- Did my latest idea inspire?
- Am I liked and needed?
Some of these inquiries can be answered by immediate friends and family, but others can only be answered by colleagues or other circles of friends and lovers. Unlike families, i-tribe members are carefully selected and nurtured over time with the help of social media. So they carry weight.
When my daughter slips her iPhone next to the soup bowl and refreshes the screen between slurps, I realize that I’m just witnessing the tip of the iceberg. Her phone is a portal to a universe of relationships that will someday determine who she’ll marry, where she’ll work and other countless opportunities. It’s her lifeline, which for now seems all consuming.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no monk. I also tap into my i-tribe constantly; its power is intoxicating and cannot be denied. But I’m very aware of how consumed I am with connecting to the outside world and how little I connect to my inner one. So once a day I meditate and slip away into my very own no-Wi-Fi-zone. I close my eyes and tune into my breath as the stillness that follows is no less intoxicating and the universe inside can also provide infinite connections and possibilities.
Maybe next time I find myself at the hearth instinctively wanting to , or to , or even to someone around me, I’ll save these virtual rituals for my Facebook friends. The fleshy ones sitting next to me will get my uninterrupted attention.