For me, one of the most aggravating paradoxes of modern life is my inability to communicate, given how hyperconnected we are now. Growing up there was no internet in our house, and one telephone line (without even an answer phone until I reached my teen years) in the house. No voice mail, no call waiting, no text messaging, no email, no online video, no Skype, no Facebook, no Google. It’s a wonder we communicated at all, especially when there were three teenagers and two adults sharing the same house and the same phone line. No call waiting back in the old days…
Then again, I might feel lonely now, a foreigner in a city of millions, but I remember feeling lonely when I was a schoolchild in a highly homogeneous suburb of London. Technology isn’t a panacea for pains of the spirit. Indeed, the fact that I have all these tools to communicate with, and fail to use them, probably makes it worse. I might have had lots of things to worry about as a youth, but keeping my inbox clear was never one of them. Moreover, that there’s no apparent obstacle to sending an email means you’re more able to prevaricate; there’s always something else to do first.
In the long run, I have faith that structure and system can win over raw talent. You might be very smart or very strong, but over time if you’re not organized then you won’t make the most of those advantages.
However crummy that it might feel to have to put in a calendar reminder to ensure you write to somebody close to you, it’s better than the alternative, if the alternative is never making the time to write anything. And besides, with a family distributed across time zones, it’s not like I can just give my parents a call on Saturday morning. Unless I want to be waking them up at 1am local time. That’s hardly Son Of The Year material.
So although on the one hand I’ve been a terrible friend to people on general (I’ll agree to arrange something for early January, and then fail to make contact until May) it is at least for now the case that people are forgiving. Nobody I’ve recently emailed has chastised me for taking more than three months to get round to it; everyone else is busy too. And if you assumed people were mad at you for not getting in touch, you’re probably also assuming people are thinking about you in greater detail than they really are.
So: I still think I need to mark time in my calendar for simple human things like talking to people. And I probably need a flowchart to refer to
("Feeling lonely?" Yes –> "Write to somebody and see if they reply")
but it’s not hopeless.
Or if things are hopeless, they’re nothing serious.