Recently I read a fantastic article from Annie Mac on the ‘insidious nature of WhatsApp’ as she describes it, and how it’s likely the cause of her feelings of disconnection from her friends and family. She wrote, “In that creeping, insidious way that tech has of influencing our behaviour, WhatsApp has become all-consuming. When it first arrived, I didn’t have a burning desire to replace my real-time phone conversations with texted chats. I didn’t feel as though I was spending too much time on the phone speaking to my friends. I miss those conversations now.” I felt her article.  

Personally, I’ve had a love / hate relationship with all things digital for a while now

I love that I can check in with people, and it leaves the door open for them to respond when they can. That it’s quick, easy and convenient to say, “Hi” when you’re busy IRL. For the people who live further away, it’s great that I can stay in touch via a simple text.

The hate however, comes from this feeling that it’s not truly ‘connected’ with people, despite the continuous conversations going on with my friends and family. And I’ve really felt that over this past few years. Digital, technology, whatever you want to call it, it feels more obviously disconnecting rather than connecting.

Online dating has likely been in part, a cause of this awareness

Because you realize how hard it is to actually connect with people over a message. No one really remembers much from those texted conversations. Also you realize how much someone can throw across a few words to you without being invested in the communication you’re involved in at all. Having zero nonverbal cues tends to lead to a lot of miscommunication. And you can’t be really vulnerable or let your guard down. Or you can, but it’s protected via that digital space.

Sure, I learn about what someone’s been up to here and there, they might tell me a bit about how they feel, but I don’t think they or I are getting one another’s full attention in that moment, and I never get to fully knowing them via a texted message. Nor can you have those real in-depth conversations that lead to feeling connected with someone as you do IRL, at least not in the way you would face to face. It’s disconnected connection. And I want more real life connection. 

March 2020 happened

In March 2020, everyone found themselves with zero plans, no nights out, barely a social engagement in the calendar. WhatsApp, Zoom calls, virtual became the norm. I haven’t bounced back from this yet. I’ve been a little stuck in a reclusive habit. A 2017 study into WhatsApp says’, ‘Even though profound communication is possible, one might consider that less can actually be more,’ and that interacting with technology does impact on wellbeing. 

My reliance on WhatsApp, social media, and mostly digital to stay in touch with people, it does now feel detrimental to my mental and emotional state. I feel further away from people than ever before. Nobody gets authentic me and I’m not getting their full picture. It’s not how I want my relationships to be – half-hearted or disconnected. I care about my people and I want them to know this, first hand. So I want to try and do things differently for 2023. 

Firstly I’m going to put the phone down when I’m with people in real life

I’ve been trying this one for a while, and it feels good. I mean I wouldn’t interrupt a phone call to accept another call, or ask someone I’m with to wait a minute so I can call someone else and finish a conversation, so why message or look at my phone when I’m actually with people? And I realized that I was actually sending a hidden message to the person I was with – that they weren’t worthy of my full attention. I try and make sure they get my full attention now. 

I’m also going to attempt more two way conversations in real time

That’s right, the good old fashioned phone call! So if your phone starts buzzing, no I haven’t broken my leg, I’m not in some kind of life or death emergency (I hope) I’m just looking to catch up and rely less on a message to communicate with the people in my life in 2023. And if you’re feeling all weird about it, and sat there thinking, ‘I don’t want a call’ that’s possibly because it turns out we’re all avoiding phone calls and in person communication. 

I also want more face to face conversations

I want to get rid of the digital barrier that gives me that false feeling of connected to everyone whilst also constantly making me feel totally disconnected, and get more real. I want that convo to get deep. Because whilst texting gives me a sense of control, perhaps as you don’t have to really let your guard down, nor be vulnerable with people. It feels like it’s less truth, more hidden behind closed doors (or a message). And vulnerability matters. Getting deep, personal and really talking to people, matters. So I’m full on battling my recent recluse style avoidance of in person meets, and I’m going to make more time and effort to see people in the flesh.

I love that energy you feel when you’ve spent some good time with great friends

That buzz when you’ve shared a memorable experience. That emotional happiness you get filled up with when you’ve had in person conversations. The understanding you take away when you’ve discussed and shared all manner of things. Feeling like my peeps know what’s going on with me, and via versa. Being able to really lift them up whenever there’s a rocky patch. Or cheer them on in person when there’s something to celebrate.

I won’t ditch WhatsApp forever more, I’m just also going to keep reminding myself that it isn’t good to use WhatsApp as a replacement for in-person and soul-nourishing conversations. And IRL feels like something healthy to challenge myself for more of in 2023.

Are you feeling disconnected from people? How are you doing conversations differently in 2023?

By Amy Roullier
By Amy Roullier

Amy is the Founder and Editor of The Authentic Optimist. She talks all things life. From the highs to the lows, to all those messy bits in-between. She is a writer, rambler, lover of carbs (her true soulmate) and she is especially passionate about dispelling myths about women in their 30s. Amy lives in Lincolnshire with her two greyhounds.

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