Intimacy in a Digital World

In New York, I constantly observe people out with each other being on their phones much of the time. It seems we're spending an inordinate amount of time posting about our lives on FB, or rather a version of our lives on Facebook, rather than being in an actual life. Even on festive occasions, we're more plugged in, than tuned in to those around us.

I myself am guilty of frittering away my time like this. It feels a bit like the addiction I had to cocaine when I was in my early 20s, where I would need to take one more hit. These days, in FB-equivalent terms, I scroll down one more time, click on one more cat, dog, dance, or awareness video for two more minutes, to see how people live in the FB world and wonder how the fuck I've become so uninspired that I'm sitting on my couch watching my life go by in other people's posts.

My curiosity was piqued by articles like This is how we date now (that, yes, I shared via Facebook) that speaks to some of what our dating culture has become and the pulse of the times regarding finding love and what we truly want. My FB rant is actually about how we are relating in real, person-to-person time, or not actually relating, as the case may be. We seem to be cyber-relating instead of interrelating, even though touch and contact are essential to survival. I wonder, if we don't turn back towards each other, how this will turn out in the long run.

We have become, in the last 15 years or so, click-happy, swipe-happy, text-crazed, Instagramming, Tweeting, cyber-relationship-searching fiends. We're now people looking to find love, contact and true intimacy through a computer screen or smartphone . With this has come a new tendency to "throw away people", because the next swipe might be better-something a bit demoralizing, at least in my experience. We decide whom we'll date within 179 characters or less. I know people who have met the love of their life this way but mostly, I see despair, hopelessness and low self-esteem in the relationship cyber-world.

What happened? When did swiping left or right become the way we decide who's interesting and datable? ? How did texting become the number-one way we communicate? How can we learn true intimacy in a culture that relegates relationships to our smartphones? With all this amazing technology, I feel we have become instant-gratification seekers; if we don't have a desired answer within five minutes, we move on to the next thing or person.

But don't we all really want a love that is connected, deep and full of anticipation? Slow movement and plenty of space to allow relationship to build? I realize that searching for connection is an automatic outward movement rather than inward, which seems fulfilling in the short term but isn't what we are really looking for. I'm finding that contact, authentic truth and intimacy get strangled if we keep on looking for the next best thing rather than exploring what's right in front of us in real time rather than cyber-time.

For me, relationships are about our own self-growth, opening into our vulnerability, learning how to stay in the ecstatic and painful feelings both, while exploring how we give and receive love and compassion and experience tenderness. This includes opening up to our gifts-and darkness-in service of examining and accepting all of our nuances.

I'm also aware of how people assign "chemistry" and "attraction" onto the other person. In my experience, I can turn myself on and off. The decision to be attracted and have chemistry comes from inside us. All the factors in our history, our relationship patterns, attachment styles, longing, society norms and whatever else we throw in for good measure speak to how we relate. As I've gotten older and my libido has shifted, so has my "chemistry pattern". To truly know the other, to even see who is in front of us, we need to be in contact with ourselves and our desire, as well our ability to slow down to find out what we need and want instead of disposing of someone so quickly because they're might be someone better in the next swipe.

Instincts. Intuition. Feelings. Call and response. For me these are some of the tenets of interplay when moving towards one another.  It's more difficult to feel ourselves if our attention is consistently taken by the next swipe or click and not who's in front of us. We are here on this planet for such a short time. Do we want to miss out on all the deliciousness of personal contact, touch, receiving and being seen in favor of the fleeting gratification of a short text and an emoticon?

I will leave you to consider all this with these questions:

How do we slow down and discover how we love? In this cyberdating and cyberrelating world, are we willing to explore each other in moment-to-moment snail-time, to uncover what intimacy truly means?

Lynn Kreaden