Concerns about humanity losing the ability to truly connect with each other are nothing new. Technological advancements in television, radio, cell phones, and the Internet have created new mediums for humans to communicate across vast distances. In many ways, communication is easier and more accessible today than ever before. However, ease and accessibility doesn’t always lead to better quality. Indeed, there are many reasons to question the quality of communications facilitated by social media.
Do these mediums compromise our ability to connect with others on a more personal level? Do addictions to social media significantly affect quality of communication with one’s surrounding environment? Are people distracted from what is happening in the real world all around them?
These are just a few of the questions that can be asked about the influence of modern tools of communication. Regardless of the individual answers, one thing will remain true. We will not find true love and sincere happiness if we cannot meaningfully connect with one another.
Recently, I visited Austin, Texas for a family reunion. My extended family is quite evenly split between the East and West coasts. Therefore, we honed in on Austin as the perfect midway point for a family gathering. When I became aware of the reunion plans, I decided I wanted to write a letter to each family member that was attending, as well as to those unfortunate members that weren’t able to make it.
Why did I feel so strongly about doing this? Honestly, I wasn’t sure when I would get another opportunity to see my entire family in person. I knew this was an amazing chance for me to tell each one of my family members exactly what they mean to me. What I didn’t know was just how much my family has taught me over the years, and how much they have helped me achieve the goals I set before myself.
As the date of the Austin trip approached, I was struggling to find time to sit down and write. It would’ve been easy to dismiss the idea at that point. It was Spring Break! The weather was beautiful! There were so many other things I could’ve done instead, but two days before I was set to leave the motivation struck and once I started writing, I couldn’t stop.
Memories came flooding back. Each letter brought new realizations to the surface. I found out where I learned many of the lessons and values that are now instilled deeply in my subconscious. I realized how fortunate I am to have a family that loves and cares and supports one another. I realized how many people in the world don’t have that kind of support system. I realized how much our individual personalities are shaped by the traits and values of the people we surround ourselves with.
In all honesty, writing to my family members brought me to tears. When I finally presented the letters in Austin, some people chose to read them immediately. Others chose to wait for a quieter, more private moment. Nevertheless, at some point in the weekend, each of my family members approached me to express how much it meant to them. My response was always the same, “It was my pleasure.” And it really was. I learned so much about who I am, how I’ve come to be the person I am today, and the qualities I will continue to value throughout my lifetime.
Most importantly, this process helped me understand how lucky I am to have an amazing support system of family and friends. It helped me realize how important it is that I never take that support system for granted. No matter where our lives take us, there will always be people out there thinking about you; people who truly care about you and love you. That kind of love spans all distances and circumstances. It survives the test of time and the tides of life. For that kind of love to grow and blossom we must truly experience one another, face-to-face, person-to-person, without technological intermediaries.
Modern technology has undoubtedly improved the ease of global communications. Unfortunately, this improved ease of global communication is linked to the dehumanization of communication, mainly through social media. We must be careful to continue fostering meaningful interpersonal connections.
These connections will help us find deeper significance and purpose in our lives. These connections will help us set aside our fears and prejudices. They will help us become more understanding of one another.
Human connections open endless possibilities for love, hope, satisfaction, happiness, and, hopefully someday, peace. Through these connections we can maintain belief that, one day, we will find our true counterpoint in another.
This is how I learned what my family and friends will always mean to me. This is how 20 letters changed my life.