Friday, February 16, 2018

So, I was thinking, and...

The amount of shootings in this country since January is devastating and troubling, to say the least. As I read articles and social media posts, I see many people discussing what can be done to prevent these things from happening in the future. Some are convinced that stricter gun laws are the answer while others are lobbying for armed teachers in the schools. Some are insisting that being open and honest about mental illness is the solution while others are pointing to bad parenting.

IMPORTANT: It’s crucial to note that, even with every intervention the world has to offer, the worst can still happen. It’s so hard to stop wondering if you could have done something to prevent things. Please do not blame yourself if you have had one of these experiences. Self-blame can lead to toxic habits and behaviors as well.

Each idea mentioned above has pros and cons that should be recognized, but I’d like to bring an additional idea to the table. It requires no government—anything—and can be implemented immediately. It’s something that, if we’re being honest, most of us haven’t done to its fullest extent in a long time.

My idea is that we put forth more effort to show that we care about people via actual human interaction.

Do you know who your next door neighbors are?
Do you know what the inside of their homes look like (i.e. have you made time to visit them)?
When was the last time you called an old friend, just to talk?
Do you know (or remember) how to have a phone conversation?
Do you only know how someone is doing if they post on social media? If that’s the case, are you paying attention to what they’re posting?
Do you know how/what the people who live with you are doing, regardless of their age?

It's not easy to do even a little bit of that in today's world. I get it. With job demands and the ever increasing requirement for two-income households, just trying to catch up with your immediate family can be a challenge. With all its bells and whistles, our modern society does not actively encourage a sense of community.

I remember life before the internet, cellphones, and personal computers. I typed some of my 7th grade reports on a typewriter. If I wanted to communicate with a friend, the main way was to actually talk to them…on land line phones or—wait for it—in person…and sometimes I had to talk to their parents before I could talk to them. 

If I absolutely needed to tell a friend something in class, I had to hand-write my message on paper, carefully fold it, and then (with the potential risk of detention) depend on my classmates to get the message to them. And after all that, sometimes, the message just said, “Hey, are you okay? You don’t seem like yourself today.”

How many lives have been saved because someone said “Hey, let me help you with that.”
How many people have died in their homes, at parties, or on the streets because everyone thought that someone else was taking care of them?
How many people have endured abuse for years without help because the community mindset was “well, that’s none of my business.”

It's so easy to abdicate ourselves of responsibility when we don't actively communicate with people. When I would be on Facebook and see someone posting something "dramatic" or weird, you know what I used to do? I’d wait to see if that was the only post. If the posts continued, I would unfollow the person for a bit until the drama was over.

I was apathetic. 

I have been part of the problem.

One of my latest goals is to make more of an effort to connect with people in a more human way: Leaving more comments instead of likes; sending messages to catch up with people that I haven't talked to in a while; making time for phone calls that are long overdue. As I've done that, you know what? I'm happier...fancy that.

In a world where every opinion is relative and the ideas of right and wrong are becoming more and more arbitrary, the time still comes when your gut instinct tells you that something’s out of whack. There’s nothing inappropriate about sending someone a message or making a phone call just to let them know that you’re thinking about them and want to know how they’re doing. You don’t even have to mention their latest behavior or posts. And you know what? If they say everything’s good (even if it isn’t), they’ll know that someone out there cares.

Is it really that inconvenient to just send someone a message or make a phone call? Of course not.

This isn't just a millennial generation problem; it manifests itself in people of all age groups. We think that a simple like is enough to show we care, even though we all know the truth: A like isn’t the same as a comment. A comment isn’t the same as a personal message. A personal message isn’t the same as a phone call. A phone call isn’t the same as a visit. Each of these does have their place; we just need to make sure we’re not leaving a like when we should be making a call.

Want to try it? It might actually be fun.