Sat | Dec 10, 2016

Stop hiding behind text messages

Published:Wednesday | October 1, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Shelly-Ann Harris GUEST COLUMNIST

THERE ARE countless stories of students away at college abroad who are thankfully able to connect with their beloved family and friends every night through Skype or other Internet-based communication tools. There are just as many stories of husbands or wives and fathers or mothers who have gone away to another country to work and are able to text, call and Skype to keep the love alive with their partners and to say good night to their kids.

There is no question that technology has done a world of good for helping all of us to stay 'in touch'. Sadly, however, there is another side, particularly as it relates to how men and women relate.

Back in the day, a woman had the distinct pleasure of having an interested man behold her and muster up all his courage to approach her to start a conversation. She would observe how he walked up towards her, the expression on his face, the clothes he was wearing, the sincerity of his smile or the sweat streaming down his forehead. She would notice if he was well put together, his sense of style and, perhaps, if his shoes were clean.

"Hi. My name is John and I was just observing that you were sitting alone. Would you like some company?" he might ask, or some other random pick-up line. The woman then gets the chance to further notice and subconsciously process the tone of his voice, the way he said 'hi', if his voice warmed her heart, or sent chills up her spine; if his eyes said 'ginnal' or gentleman. She would notice his body scent and if his breath was minty or malodorous.

A BEAUTIFUL THING

However, with the proliferation of texting and messaging, some of this art of pursuing and connecting between a man and a woman has diminished. Many men now indicate their interest in a woman with a simple text message or tweet. Don't get me wrong - nothing is wrong with expressing feelings through a text message, but it simply shouldn't completely replace the physical interaction and the associated hypnotic chemistry.

Even when men and women actually get together, they spend a lot of time on their phones WhatsApp-ing, BB-ing and texting away - and not necessarily to each other! Countless times I'm sitting in a restaurant and see couples busy texting or reading on a tablet without real eye contact between each other.

TOO BUSY TO INTERACT

In a recent Time magazine article, centenarian sex therapist, Shirley Zussman, rightly observed: "There is so much less of actual physical connection. There's less touching, there's less talking, there's less holding, there's less looking. People get pleasure from looking at each other." Yes, they do, and not only on a sensual level!

Still, we can't lay the blame for reduced intimacy squarely at the feet of technology. We have become a busy, stressed-out society that hardly has the time, gentility, passion or energy for intimate interactions.

We can actually use the technology to set up our physical interactions, which some men and women do quite well. "I miss you, can't wait to see you laterhugs" or "honey, I have something special for you when you get homewink," are some examples.

Others, however, hide behind the technology. Some men don't actually tell their women "I love you" with a slow, deliberate embrace or kiss. Instead, they send a text. Some women don't actually look into their man's eyes, cup his beard and say, "Baby, I'm sorry." Instead, they send a text message and hope things will be OK when they see each other later on.

Those of us who want to truly and deeply sustain connection with our significant others must get more physical, honest and intimate again with how we approach communication. We must use the technology to help us to connect and not reduce our connection to 140 characters.

Shelly-Ann Harris is a communication specialist. Follow her blog on Twitter @harrisshellyann. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and shellyannharris@gmail.com.