It’s been pointed out to me by more than one person (and each knows well my linguistic quirks) that I have the idiosyncrasy of asking friends to “remember when”… when the subject is whatever is currently happening. “Remember that time we got massively lost on the way to the museum? Wasn’t that hilarious?” as we tap furiously at a lagging GPS device. “Remember that time we got to wait in line forever at the grocery store and got home and realized we forgot one of the shopping bags?”, seconds after we’ve walked in the door. I’m pretty certain this started as most things I repeat too often start – an awkward attempt to bring humor to an otherwise irritating situation. Playing with time is funny to me. Meta-living is amusing. And staying frustrated with a situation is a lot harder to do when you’ve already jumped out of it.
But it’s recently struck me that there might be more at work in this quirk of speech. I enjoy jumping ahead to the part where we laugh about things later, and while there is merit to refusing to settle in discontent, it is also a product of the Jump Ahead Generation. I am part of a culture that can – and does – take photos for the express purpose of making them Facebook profile pictures. In the moment when something funny is said, conversation will turn to making it a status, a tweet, a pithy marker of time and a notice to the world that We Are Having Fun!! Right? Aren’t we? Look how much fun we’re having!
I am not down on the marvels of technology – that would be a pretty spectacular level of hypocrisy for someone as email, Iphone, and Facebook dependent as I am. I’ve started a blog for Pete’s sake. I’m as plugged in as the next kid. I just believe that our levels of hyper-connectivity are dangerous for true communication and that it's going to take deliberate effort to provide balance.
It is in part because we have so much space to fill now. In a time where telegrams came by the letter, planning what you were going to say was crucial. Thoughtful exchanges were really the product of necessity. Now, no one is asking that we think. Just that we shout. Be funny, be loud, be cruel, be beautiful, be dangerous, just be it in the most knee-jerk extreme way possible and your voice might catch someone’s ear above the din. It might catch someone’s eye as they scroll through their newsfeed for the eighteenth time that day. Substance ranks well below style and volume today, and that’s a perilous game.
Yet something about this gives me hope … maybe it’s the fact that we’re all still interested in communicating at all, no matter how weird things get. We still write and create and put ourselves out there (albeit with new levels of anonymity and proliferation at our fingertips) because we are as human as ever – we want to understand and we’re dying to be understood. The circumstances keep changing but, on a fundamental level, we don’t. And for that, I am grateful
Perhaps, then, this particular entry is just a reminder to myself to really Be wherever I am … to remember to exist for the space and time and people around me, instead of the what-might-be ahead. Just to Be Here. Now.