I got 3 different lessons in communication this summer.

I never really thought about how hopelessly lost deep in the woods we all are. We’re going through the motions of what a digital society demands from us, without even noticing we completely lost the art of communication.

Everyone’s doing it. We are all guilty.

We live in times of social networks, misunderstandings, texting, scheming; it is imperative to listen to the person. Understand from their point of view, not yours. Times are too hard; financially, mentally, and emotionally.

We feel this misplaced sense of pleasure these devices give us when we hear that notification, yet they only created deep loneliness within us.

Two years ago I met someone I really liked and connected with. We stayed in touch for two whole years; we lived in different cities/continents. We spoke constantly. Waited to see each other again. Desperately. Texted and texted and Instagrammed until eternity and back.

I got used to his messages, words, comments, responses. Texts. Always texts. He tried to call me or FaceTime me many times or asked to call me, but I always said — “text me, I’m out”, even when I wasn’t. I’m a writer, I’m a sucker for seeing a written word. Somehow, someone saying something great to me is never good enough as seeing those words written down.

I don’t have time for calls. I’m always busy or in a Subway or somewhere or I don’t want to be bothered. I can read texts/responses/DM’s when I feel like reading them.

We became slaves to those words, texts, comments, responses, DM’s. They are all drugs, and we are addicts. Unaware of what we’re even doing. We have nothing with these people we constantly text with, and never see. We are just some sort of a stick to one another to scratch ourselves on. Or gyrate, like strippers on poles.

When I was bored I would post a picture he would react on. When I was tired or frustrated and needed a pick me up, I would say something that I know he would react on. It was so dumb, I’m tempted to leave this article unwritten, how nauseated I am from telling this tale.

I arrived home this summer, knowing he’ll also be here. I didn’t tell him when I’m coming, I didn’t call him to tell him my dates, I didn’t text him to let him know what day I’m arriving. My level of communication was walking down to the supermarket to post a picture, with tagging the city. Knowing he would flip seeing me being there.

We literally created games out of a simple act of communicating.
Seven seconds later, his response came in. Right on schedule. Excitement and disbelief I’m actually, finally at the same spot he is.

What follows is a Tolstoy volume of lunacy.

What should have been a 5-minute phone call with the following content: “Hey, let’s meet there & there in that hour”, was Instagram DM’s worth of about 3 hours, with misunderstandings, not reading each other right, not understanding the intent, plan, issue, group dynamic he was with, and so on.

Sprinkle that with jet lag, sleepiness, irritability; naturally — we got in a fight. Never saw each other. Lesson not learned, we spoke again a few days later and talked about another load of nonsense, instead of just planning where and when to meet up. We DM’ed for hours — again, got in the fight — again, did not meet up — again.

In fact, we never saw each other or spoke, ever again.

Later in the summer, I reunited with my childhood friend that I haven’t really seen much in more than a decade. Life scattered us apart; I moved to a different continent, and he got married (read: also moved to a different continent). Long story short, we skipped on lots of moments together.

He also skipped on social media and all this digital nonsense we all got drowned in.

To reunite with someone that, for me, sounded like he was frozen and stuck in time, I realize I was frozen & stuck, not him. He had such a good insight into real human connection, while all of us around him only appeared to have been more connected than him.

He blew a completely different type of air into my lungs.
I told him my story about the guy and messaging and falling out. Thinking he will give me some supreme guy insight. But what he said was: “Miranda, I don’t understand, you are in your house, and he is in the city, about 300 meters from you, and you are messaging each other, fighting on DM’s, why didn’t you just walk down the road and talked in person?”

He was genuinely puzzled.

And I’m usually considered a fairly sensible person.

“When he left for round two, why are you laying on your bed texting him and he is probably laying on his bed texting you, why didn’t you pick up the phone and CALLED HIM?”

This is how deep in the woods we are. That it never actually occurred to me to pick up the phone, even three hours deep into texting, when it was clear we were just not getting each other.

Mind you, I’m not even a Millennial. I’m a Gen X, I KNOW how to talk on the phone.

Times are so dire, heavy, problematic, complicated, and mentally hard; we are all going through a pandemic hangover — it’s of vital importance to communicate with precision, to hear each other’s actual voice to understand the intent.

How can we fail at this? How can I fail at this?

In the second part of my summer, I got a present. A gift. I most definitely did not deserve it or earn it. I got it nonetheless.

I met someone else. I wasn’t even that nice to him. But he kept checking in on me every day, casually. He didn’t have social media. He didn’t talk much like other guys do. There weren’t many words, compliments, attention seeking, or giving; he was just trying to plan to meet up.

He would mostly send me pictures of where he currently is or what he’s doing, texted me to call him, or asked me if he can call me.

We would actually talk.

I was weird about it in the beginning. I would sometimes tell him I would call and then get distracted by people, things around me. Where could I go to have a conversation in peace? It took a minute for me to get used to it. Create this space.

It shocked me how not used to talking to a guy on the phone I actually was.

We live in times of so much texting, messaging and so little doing. So much attention seeking and giving online, but so little play in real life.

I know you know what I’m talking about, you live it and complain about it, daily.

This was the opposite. So little talk, but so much planning and actually doing. Meeting up. Doing stuff. Experiencing stuff. Each other.

And when I started to actually like him a little bit, gotta be honest, I missed texting. I missed those messages where you send or receive these little things you want to hear, I would miss him not seeing me post a picture of something that only he and I would know about, or something he would know references him; it almost felt empty.

But the more I walked this path with him, I started to see how dumb and not real all this online chatter is. Messages, DM’s, comments on your Stories — literally con you into thinking you have a connection with someone. It makes you dependent on other people’s reactions, as they actually validate your existence. As the mileage of messages actually validates your connection.

Sometimes I do miss 57 messages a day, but, like every proper former addict, after a period of withdrawal, I saw this “nothingness” as a gift.

You don’t need attention. You don’t need comments. You don’t need a digital reaction. In fact, it’s terrible for you.

I so needed this empty space.

A day without constant notifications. The simplicity of human interaction. Someone that spends less time crafting a perfect sentence to message me, and more time planning to actually spend time with me.

And I know you do too.

Men who text you more than actually trying to see you are men who know they don’t have much to offer you. They know their shortcomings are harder to detect online than in real life. By giving you attention on social media, they want to prolong your interest in them.

Let’s walk out of these woods, stop wasting our time, and step into real life.

It’s harder than the one online, but boy, it’s fucking beautiful.