The Busy Signal

Thursday, August 07, 2014

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The Busy Signal
Put the phone down to really connect.

Before the era of cell phones, social media, and call waiting, there was a thing called “the busy signal.” It typically alerted those who were calling someone from a landline that the line was currently preoccupied. You’d have to hang up and try calling again at a later time, when (hopefully) the line was no longer occupied. If you had an urgent message to deliver, you’d have to find another way to contact the person which would probably include showing up at their house unannounced.

Now, showing up to someone’s house unannounced is considered borderline stalker behavior. Urgent messages are sent via text message first. If the receiver doesn’t respond, we call. If the call isn’t answered, there’s always social media. Surely, your “check-in” at the hospital won’t go unnoticed.

Before this digital era of communication, there was also this thing called “courtesy.” I know, I know. It’s like a dirty word now. I apologize for writing it here, but it had to be said. It’s a terrible, terrible concept to embrace now, but it used to be what kept our connections strong in our “relationships.” I know, I know. I just used another dirty word. I promise I’m not trying to scare you.

Honestly, I find it more disturbing that our digital culture has forgotten that “courtesy” and “relationships” are supposed to be a good thing.

We’ve replaced “the busy signal” with silence. We don’t respond to text messages, we don’t answer our phone calls (because how scary would that be!), and we immediately reach for our phones as soon as there’s a lull in the conversation with the person in front of us (who knew something that could fit into your pocket could put up walls higher than the Great Wall of China?).

Nevermind that it would take no more than thirty seconds to type a quick response to the text message that was sent to us, or the phone call we missed (Sorry. Can’t talk right now. Will call later.). iPhones even have a button (one button!) you can press for this exact scenario. And who cares that the person in front of us, the person we’re blocking connection with by connecting to our virtual screens instead, is worthy of our time and undivided attention? We’re much too busy updating our statuses, posting pictures of our restaurant meals (because your online friends just have to know what’s going to be in your toilet bowl later), and making plans and/or having side conversations with someone else. Put down our phones? Ha! Why would we ever do that?

No, that would be much too “courteous” of us, and if we’re “courteous” we might end up having an actual (gasp!) “relationship.”

We might find out that we have so much more to say than whatever’s most obvious. We might actually talk about ourselves, our feelings, our hopes, our dreams for the future. We might have a real conversation with a real-life person.

Wouldn’t that just be terrifying?

Are you brave enough to try it?

Put down your phone and actually talk to the person you’re with. Give that person your undivided attention. Connect.

Honestly, I dare you.

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