Remember when you used to send and receive hand-written letters?
That delightful, surprising moment that you’d hear your dad call from the kitchen – “there’s a letter here for you!”
My 15 year old self would bound out of my room to find an envelope adorned with shimmering loveheart stickers and doodles and big curly letters. It made me feel loved.
Fast-forward 14 years and the glitter-encrusted communication of yore has been replaced with “How R U” and “I’m stuck in ducking traffic. Ducking autocorrect” (my autocorrect is a prude).
We now communicate with decidedly less romantic forms of communication than hand-lettering or homing pigeons. Text messaging. Messenger. WhatsApp. Plus the hundred of other options that come along with smartphones. It’s a social media overwhelm,.
These modern day “conveniences” are supposedly meant to make us more contactable, productive and connected but – I don’t know about you – all I feel is pressure. Throw in a smidge of stress, a little frustration and a whole lot of overwhelm. Then dunk a bucket load of guilt on it and light it on fire (just for good measure).
It’s becoming increasingly hard to know how to cope with this social media overwhelm – and increasingly apparent that we need to address it.
The pressure of being constantly contactable is enough to make you snap. The other day that’s what happened to me.
A friend of mine needed some information from me. It wasn’t urgent. It wasn’t life-threatening. It wasn’t even to tell me the news that daily consumption of champagne fights alzheimers (which I guess would count as Red Alert news).
He contacted me via text. A while later by Messenger. And very shortly after he called. In that time (respectively speaking) I had been; playing with my daughter, driving my car and then being introduced to two women that didn’t speak my language. All activities that require concentration.
3 interactions from 3 different mediums in under 3 hours.
Unlike the origami-folded notes of 1999. I didn’t feel loved, I felt got at.But then – extraordinarily – I found myself apologising. Begrudgingly. Insincerely. Resentfully.
That night I went home and turned to the art that I was missing so very much; letter writing.
Here is my open letter to the person whose text I didn’t reply to today.
(Readers: feel free to forward this on to).
Dear Person Whose Text I Didn’t Reply To,
You are important to me and I’m grateful that you want to chat.
If you’re my friend or family – I love you and I’m stoked I have people in my life that want to chat with me or hang out or ask advice or give advice.
If you’re a phone company or lawnmower man chasing a payment – hell, I’m even grateful for you. It means I have phones and lawns.
But I am not contactable right now and that is okay. Because I am a human.
I’m off doing “life things” like maybe lying under a tree with my daughter, writing a book, driving somewhere or cooking dinner. Maybe I just want to poo in peace without having to type out a text message or try to conceal the sound of a flushing toilet as we chat.
Unfortunately – as a human – my energy, capacity and attention is not endless.
Please don’t try any other forms of communication to get to me.
I saw you – I just don’t want to answer you right now.
I‘m not sorry about it and that is okay.
While waiting, you could go do other things too. Beaches are great. Coffee is too. Doing something with your awesome talents. Maybe you could contact the person that is waiting for you to get back to them (I bet there’s at least one). If not, call someone you love and tell them, just because.
One thing you shouldn’t do is worry that I don’t like you, love you, appreciate you or that I am ignoring you.
I’m not. I’m just human.
You might not be the only person trying to contact me.
Therefore it may take a few hours, maybe a few days and even a few weeks to get back to you. This is not an affront to you. This is me doing the best I can.
If it is urgent I promise I will respond as quickly as possible.
If it’s for a chat I will wait until I have enough time to commit a proper moment when I can give you my best. Really absorb all those wonderful things you tell me and have enthusiasm while telling stories to you too.
I will try to let you know if it’s going to be a while. Sometimes I will forget. Because I am a human.
As such I promise that when I want to contact you I will remember all of the above things.
I promise I will remember I am not the centre of your universe and that you might be walking your dog, driving somewhere great or simply don’t feel like talking.
I promise you that I will not give in to the temptation of contacting you via every other avenue of communication. I will want to. Because we live in a modern world and we are told this is okay. I know that it’s not.
I promise to catch my breath and feel happy instead that you are out there doing awesome things or important things or annoying things that need to be done anyway.
I promise that if you take a while, I promise I won’t make up stories in my head or get angry or feel disvalued. I know that life doesn’t always go to plan. That we get busy, tired and stressed
I promise to remind myself that there is a strange pleasure in waiting for something – one that’s often forgotten. That I don’t need all the answers right now. That I am not entitled to any time of yours that you are not able or willing to give.
Most of all – I promise to remember that you are human too.
Chat soon, okay?