A New Core Anchor for a Different Voice: Connection
Miller first wrote these words in 1976, forty-three years ago, but her ideas are still relevant. I believe there have been great changes in our ability to connect with others in the world. Although the technologies are imperfect, I have had many positive, connecting experiences talking to friends and colleagues overseas and in different parts of the country on Skype and Zoom. These tools for communication were not available in 1976. I text and e-mail others constantly, which keeps me rapidly “in touch” with others. However, all our advanced technology comes with a high price. Communication occurs rapidly and our work lives have sped up. We have a highly inflated cost of living, longer work hours and less free time to cultivate relationships.
Often, texting and e-mailing replace phone calls, where one can hear a human voice, as well as face-to-face, in person, three-dimensional contact with an actual live human being. And although these new technologies can be useful tools, they cannot replace authentic human contact and connection, nor were they intended to. In her book “You’re the Only One I can Tell”, psychologist Deborah Tannen gives multiple examples of ways women use Facebook to maintain connections, but not to share deep intimacies—those are shared in an actual conversation. Each technology has its own etiquette. (Tannen, 2017, pp. 188-189.) If I write a letter and text it to my son, he quickly lets me know I have used the technology inappropriately; that I am only to text short blurbs. If I want to say more I should e-mail, write a letter and mail it by way of snail-mail, or make a phone call! Maybe one day I will figure out all these new rules! Texting seemed like a quick way to send a letter, but alas, I committed a technological faux-pas!
I have observed in my son’s generation (he is in his early 30’s) that Western men seem to be more caring of each other and nurturing of their intimate relationships and friendships than are men in my own generation, and certainly more than men in my parent’s generation. They also seem to be more directly involved in the care of their children and want to have close relationships with their children; most do not appear to view the hands-on raising of children to be solely a woman’s job. Observing these changes makes me hopeful that men, too, are learning to value the importance of connection.
Paradoxically, we have also seen in the United States the rise of a white, male-dominated far right that is exclusionary, individualistic, anti-feminist and is moving us away from connection toward alienation from the rest of the world and self-destruction. Perhaps this extreme is a reaction to profound changes taking place in our society that threaten the traditional locus of power. Hopefully, the political and sociological pendulum will swing more to the left again and centralize, rather than polarize. We can then have fruitful dialogue, hear and respect each other’s differences and connect. The ability to connect with others is more than a core anchor I espouse; as Miller notes, our survival as a species depends on it.