I never thought I would forget what it means to Be Human.
I never imagined craving a warm smile from a stranger, or sharing a laugh with an old friend. And I mean a real laugh, not just imagining they are Laughing Out Loud from behind their computer screen.
Because these days, it seems like our only interactions with other Humans take place behind a shield of technology; conversation only happens with a sure barrier of distance dances between Us.
No longer do we have the luxury of observing facial twitches, or shifts in body language. No longer do we have the ability to feed off of one’s energy face-to-face.
And sometimes, I crave those moments.
Sometimes, in this world of Twitter rants and fake Facebook news, I itch for the space to ponder and debate with other Real Human Beings. I want to hear their voices, and respond in Real Time to their thoughts — not miss a beat because I’m thinking of a witty response.
Like most other 20-somethings, I am in awe of the progress social media has allowed our world to make: contact with long-lost friends and ones you just met, answers to burning questions like “How do I do laundry?” and pizza at a moment’s notice.
But, like most other 20-somethings, I also remember a time when I didn’t fall asleep next to the bright glow of a cell-phone. Or when I did things just for Fun and not for the ‘Gram.
I remember those days.
And, I miss them.
So, I’m calling for a Revolution. Or maybe just a Retreat to simpler times. To some, maybe even a Challenge.
It is this: Have one meaningful Human Interaction a day.
You may be thinking that, sure, you already do. You go to work, you take the train, you have friends. You exist in society. Of course, you interact with Other Human Beings at least once per day.
But I’m asking you to take a closer look: Do you? Truly?
Upon further examination, what do those interactions look like? Do you nod, and smile, and rush to get back to Whatever you were doing? Do you hurry to pick up your phone and tune out the rest of the conversation? Or are you already blocking out the world with your headphones?
I know, because I am just as guilty as you are.
The other day, I read a story (on my phone) about a man who witnessed this beautifully human exchange on the subway platform between a policeman and a homeless man. At the end of his story, he asked: Would you notice something like this?
It got me thinking, because nowadays, I don’t think I would. I think I would be too caught up in my political podcasts or Facebook statuses or skimming the Latest Breaking News story. And, these time fillers are actually devoid of Hope and Connection.
In turn, these time fillers have been slashing my hope for Humanity.
I started my own version of this Challenge yesterday, and I was welcomed with a pleasant surprise. A string of Hope (maybe).
On a morning that was already shitty and late and crowded, I expected my commute to be nothing more than bearable. And of course, as I arrived at my train with Just Enough Time to make it to work, I heard the dreaded announcement: Extremely Delayed Service.
My fellow commuters shared my confusion-turned-dismay at our morning commute. Some of those who were less hopeful escaped from the underground quickly. By the time I gave up, there was a crowd of searching cab riders already way ahead of me.
I resigned myself to join the mob of cab searchers, when I noticed a woman in front of me waving her arm frantically for a cab. The traffic was moving slowly. Her frustration wouldn’t make it go faster.
All of a sudden, a biker appeared from in between the crowded streets, right in front of Frantic Lady’s waving arm. In a split second decision, Mr. Biker decided to give her a high five. He just reached out and almost held her hand for a second, yelling behind him, “Have a good morning!”
Man, did she need that reminder. And, so did I.
The interaction made me tear up a little bit. Call me a cry baby but come on — how often do we see strangers remind us of the simple moments?
Frantic Lady laughed and yelled back, “You too!” — her long braids shaking with laughter. All of Us cab-less commuters laughed with her. It was like she — we — became defrosted in that moment. We remembered what’s really important in life.
So, Day 1 of my Challenge holds strong. I will try to replace my inward-gazing moments with observation. With interactions.
With reminding myself what it means to Be a Human Being.