In a recent blog, “Social Isolation in the Year 2015,” I described the perils of the loss of social intimacy, as characterized by the influx of the new wave of techies imported to work in the Silicon Valley by technological cutting edge companies like Google, Yahoo and Genetech….I was referring mostly to social situations in that blog…But what about the importance of interpersonal intimacy?
What about the reassurance of touch, of a hug, a kiss, an embrace, from our significant others, or our children, or even a handshake and a hearty slap on the back from a friend?….We are becoming a nation of observers rather than participants, and we sit behind our computers and connect on social networks and text people on our cell phones and interact with other people in this non touchy, non feely way….
For some people this is all they have ever known, and for many people, this is all they ever want to know, to be able to relate to their peers in this non threatening, impersonal way….
But this is SO wrong! This is an example of technology run amok, where form replaces substance, where illusions, even the most graphic, well done electronic animated illusions replace reality…. People need the reassurance of touching, from the newest of newborn babies to the oldest geriatric patient in an “old folks home,” or as they are more commonly referred to today as “retirement communities”…..
People need to be hugged, to be kissed, to be embraced, especially in their formative developmental years as children, to even begin to learn the true meaning of intimacy….But it seems too many people today are scared of this, perhaps they are truly unable to touch or be touched physically, or maybe for some reason they are actually frightened of manifesting true intimacy!
Perhaps the most disturbing example and legacy of a generation raised up and taught to interact through technological devices, be it computers, tweeting, face booking or computer games is the chilling lack of any real human emotions, or acceptance of responsibility for their actions….
Do you think that it is a coincidence that every single day the news media reports an even more horrific spate of seemingly inexplicable violence of stories about children driving other children to commit suicide by cyber bullying, by accounts of gang related shootings of innocent people by children raised on violent computer games, by mass shootings in movie theaters, schools, even churches by disturbed people, usually young single white males divorced from all reality because they have never had the opportunity to experience true intimacy?….
This is no coincidence, this is not an isolated set of random facts…There is a direct and causative relationship between the lack of intimacy and these suddenly all too common crimes of violence, because to the people doing the killing, it is not “real” in any sense of the word, it is just like a computer game or simulation, and they cannot grasp the connection between their actions and the results of their actions on a basic human level….. I personally believe that this is all caused by a lack of interpersonal intimacy…..
There are other viewpoints and other causes for some of this violence….In his brilliant, incisive book “Fists, Sticks, Knives and Guns” noted social activist Geoffrey Canada points out the evolution of violence throughout the generations, from his own unique and personal experience in growing up on the rough streets of the South Bronx in the New York city of the 1950’s and 1960’s to the present day…
He details in gritty, realistic language how the code of conduct was instilled in urban inner city children by example, how the principles of not being a snitch, taking retaliation for the slightest of perceived slights and banding together in gangs was not only taught as a way of life, it was encouraged by everybody…..With the lack of strong family values, peer pressure becomes everything….
He ends the book by pointing out how the gradual escalation of violence has been enhanced and encouraged by the use of recreational drugs and the increased availability of guns…I think that while Mr. Canada’s version of the rise of violence in American society is a valid and disturbingly true, but only partial explanation, of this growing phenomenon, that the roots of this alienation and cultural breakdown can best be explained in the context of the loss of intimacy in the society as a whole… ….
I maintain that the breakdown of family values and the evolution of mass violence in our society today as compared to even 50 years ago has all been escalated by the lack of intimacy in our daily lives, by the increasing depersonalization of each of us from the true human values of love, trust and responsibility…And that all of these missing qualities can only be explained by the all too common lack of intimacy in the average, self absorbed, me first American home of today…
Why have we become so frightened, when did we become so scared of expressing raw human emotions, like love, lust, anger, giddiness, fear, happiness, or even depression? Why do we keep everything so bottled up inside of us? We don’t have to like everybody we meet, and they don’t have to like us, it is not the end of the world either way…
Everybody is entitled to their own opinion, whether we agree with it or not…Expressing hostility in a non lethal, preferably verbal rather than physical way can be a reassuring expression of a true human emotion…So can hugging, kissing and touching….We need to relearn these human ways to express intimacy before it is too late….
I am not saying that this lack of intimacy has become the norm in American society, but to borrow a popular phrase from today’s social media, we are certainly “trending” that way….We each of us in our own individual lives need to reverse this trend by showing more signs of physical affection and stop worrying so much about appearing “cool”….
We need to become more interactive in our own interpersonal relationships, and teach our children these core values of love and trust and honesty from infancy on…It’s not too late, but as the old country saying goes, “times a wasting”…..
There is no shame in crying, or feeling depressed or down, but there is no hope in denial as a way of life…We need to remember that anger turned inwards leads inevitably to depression and lack of self esteem….We all of us need to learn to celebrate, to enjoy the little things in life, to appreciate the beauty of a sunset, the symmetry of nature, the recognition and reciprocation of love as a way of life in our world….
We all need to remember and promote the intrinsic, basic value of human intimacy, the importance of touch, of real feelings…..It is all that we truly have, and in the end, it is all that we really need….