This article originally appeared on TheChalkboardMag.com
People, we have an information problem.
Every week, I field text messages and calls from friends and clients in a state of panic with their fingers on the trigger (née the send button).
Why is he doing that?
Why is she acting like that?
Does he like me?
Is she ready for a relationship?
Is he using me for sex?
Does she still love me?
Each time, I find myself repeating the same four words over and over again: You need more information. And with each repetition, I laugh, because that seems like an insane thing to be advertising in these times.
In the so-called Information/Digital/Computer Age, we have no problem acquiring vast amounts of information on our devices. One would think that the last thing we need is more of it. We are masters at digesting thoughts in 140-character sentences, stalking an ex lover, keeping up with the Ebola outbreak, scoring a Soul Cycle bike, finding a city's best ramen, uncovering a naked celebrity body, predicting where ISIS will strike next and knowing that that girl Petra from high school, whom we haven't seen in a decade, had a 6-pound 8-ounce baby named Falcon.
We. Are. Pros. Seriously, our thumbs are killing it.
And, they are also killing our ability to acquire a vast amount of information via humans. I'm referring to those beings that talk to you, touch you, look you in the eye, laugh at you, ignore you, hurt you, make love to you. You know the living breathing things that you come into contact with in lines, at restaurants, on planes, at work, in your home and in your bed?
We want to understand the other, but we forget a rather obvious thing. We forget that we are animals living in an unnatural habitat. If we were in the proverbial wild, the kind of wild where we didn't have little tracking devices that acted as extensions of our own internal rhythms, things would be seriously different. Yes, our behavior would be wildly different. We suffer from electronic amnesia and it's that amnesia that perpetuates this unnatural habitat.
You want to know if the lion is hungry? It will kill. You want to know if the lion is tired? It will sleep. You want to know if the lion is threatened? It will attack. You want to know if it's mating season? It will mount. This extraordinary creature will show you how it feels and what it wants and all you need to do is open your eyes and see. Guess what? Same thing goes for our concrete jungle.
Our analog bodies are living in an increasingly digital world and if we want to understand another being, we need to resurrect the dying art of observation. We need to see how human beings move through the part of our environment that is not built on the binary code. We need to literally and figuratively sit on our hands. We need to put down our devices, do nothing and quit looking for unaffected answers in artificial places.
When fellow humans make us feel perplexed, insecure or unsafe, we go right to our phones and computers to figure out why. Screw postal, we go digital. We comb Instagram or Facebook for answers and send text messages or emails to elicit responses and reactions. We try to hit a bull's eye, but that is almost impossible to do if we are letting our egos pull the trigger. It usually backfires, and then, well, we just want to recoil.
See, the ego hates rejection and nothingness. 'No response is a response' is the number one cause of ego death in the texting generation. Our ego wants to be pursued and desired. Our ego wants to be the one that gets him or her to commit. It wants to be liked and given double thumbs up, in real life and on the Internet. Our ego is not a place of discernment. It wants what it wants without real consideration of what the other human being is showing us. It can completely get in the way of our heart really seeing and feeling another person.
You want to know if he likes you? He will pursue you. You want to know if you are her priority? She won't book things three weeks out. You want to know if he only wants sex? He won't spend quality time with you outside of the bedroom. You want to know if she loves you? She will communicate it to you in her own way every day.
Sit back. Open your eyes. Increase your awareness. Observe.
Once you've collected some genuine data, you can always try something more advanced and evolved. You can put down your electronic weapon, look that creature in the eye with zero fear and open up that mouth of yours. The ability to use language to communicate is one of the many things that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. And, I'm going to have faith that electronic amnesia doesn't force that into extinction too.