Like most millennials, I’m on my phone a lot.
But that’s not because it’s a phone—it’s my notes, my maps, my calendar, my 26 to-do lists, my social media, my camera, my filters, my flashlight, my rideshare. So I like to separate myself and my phone whenever possible. Space is a sacred thing.
As a result, I’m the one who misses your calls and doesn’t respond timely to texts—if at all. They say that your virtual presence is the flip side of physical absence. I agree. I’m guilty of it all. I like to be physically present; I love and hate my phone.
Calling just to talk to someone seems old-fashioned. I relish those days. The days before real responsibility, and bosses who needed things yesterday. Only a handful of people call me these days—my agents, my boss, and a few significant individuals that are “friends and family.”
Communications have become multi-platform, and so we adapt into multi-platform beings. But our essential needs…have they adapted, too?
Our emotions come raw, and don’t fit well filtered, or re-purposed. Our emotions are independent of technology, of Klout, of things “smart.” Our emotions are basic, instinctual, and originate from the deepest part of our truths. Our emotional needs are basic too. You don’t need coding or engineering skills to understand that as human beings, we have a deep need to love and be loved. If love is too lofty or luxurious a word, which sometimes it can be, I understand. What about our fundamental need to just be heard?
Silence these days is like no man’s land between war zones—unsettling and forced into existence.
I haven’t written in ages, not because I didn’t have material. On the contrary, I had too much. Too much to say, too much to think, too much cacophony…a million voices in my head shouting, upset, frustrated, hurt, overwhelmed, anxious. So I muted them all. These days, I watch the news, I feel everything so violently, and before long, I shut down. I see the shouting, the unrest, which somehow amplifies in my head, and I can’t deal.
The curse of feeling everything so utterly deeply…
I see the things that are so wrong, carried out without impunity, and hear things said that shouldn’t be said. How do you reason with hate? I guess you don’t reason at all, and that’s when I realized something so simple: Out of the million and more reasons of social engagement, how often do we engage only to listen?
To truly listen—and not treat it as the break we get before a reply (of any nature).
Our multi-platform world has made outgoing communications a million times easier. We share and over-share everything—from food to opinions to problems and beliefs. Discretion is underrated, and we forget the fact that we really can’t talk and listen at the same time.
In trying times, we are defined not by our dreams, but by our problems. Maybe like love, dreams are a lofty thing of luxury, too. Social commentary is best saved for professional analysts these days. What do you really have to say when the bullies are winning?
Our multi-platform world has conditioned us into poor human beings—with little ability to truly listen. Communications, as it has adapted to be, is mostly a one-way push of information—outwards. But do we listen for what comes back? Oftentimes, the effort just isn’t there.
I’ve detached from the need to be understood at a young age, which I think worked well for an often misunderstood being, but it is my understanding that most people need this. No matter what scale things escalate to, it always starts small…and the root of most things gone bad is pain.
It’s easy to feel helpless about the state of current affairs, but we can all manage our own personal networks. We can care for the people close to us. We can do the old-fashioned thing to call in and just listen.
I’m not a phone person at all, but after a workday of various calls, my voice was cracking and throat was dry. I called 13 people to ask for 13 different things…and then I called my mother.
The conversation lasted for 30 minutes, and she spoke for 28 of them. It’s okay. I called to listen, though many times, it was difficult for me to not express my views or judgement (usually negative). We are very different people, with very different ways of doing things, very different opinions, and personal politics.
I grew up in the absence of my parents, so the reverse is also true—that I was never really there to listen. Not to what they thought I should do, nor to their problems. I never knew my mother had so many complaints and observations. I didn’t know because usually it’s a selfish vomit-fest of my own problems, and when she interjects, it would often escalate into fights.
“I called to hear your voice, and listen to you. Whatever you have to say, I’m here to listen.” I said to her.
Her tone softened.
I feel like a part of my world just cracked open, and I feel light, for the first time in a long time.
Do this. Please. Do this to the people you care most about. Call them, with the pure intention of taking them in—receive them as they are.
Your ears will be enough, your love will move mountains.
Author: Xiren Wang
Editor: Travis May