It is not yet April and yet somehow I have reconnected in person with a handful of friends I have either not seen or spent meaningful time with in years. In every case, it was like no time had passed. I did not plan it that way so I can take no credit for good planning or having foresight. Nonetheless, connecting in with people I do not see enough has inspired me to see the common thread in everyday life and also in the way we try and work with our clients. The thread is that real-time relationships matter. Human connection matters. It is great to send an email, text, or even pick up the phone. But face to face communication forms connection and gives context that is both helpful and in some situations, necessary. If we have a communication issue with a client, we ask them to come in for a meeting to avoid the disconnect email or even phone calls can bring. Likewise, if I am having disconnect with my husband or friend, I need to sit down and talk about it as opposed to sending an email. Working with those going through or dealing with aftermath of divorce and separation, I cannot help but wonder if the advent of smartphones and social media truly started making it harder to maintain marriages and family life in a healthy way rather than easier.
Life moves a mile a minute — even memories seems to be a mile a minute these days with what seems like every one of them captured on an Instagram or Facebook feed. Living in a world where social media is everywhere and it is as simple as sending a text, instant message, or any number of other ways to get in touch instantly, it is easy to say that we are more connected than ever. However, it is arguable that we are actually more disconnected from those around us and our real-life friends and family, despite our hundreds of Facebook friends, Twitter followers, or all the text messages we send or receive throughout our days. We send an iMessage instead of calling. We meant to send that email to catch up and schedule a lunch, but something else distracts us.
In divorce and separation cases, social media posts and emails frequently become exhibits. Often partners are not talking to each other, they exchange angry texts or email, they are talking about each other and to other people about their relationships. The same technology that could keep us all closer to our loved ones can have the opposite impact. Texts take the place of conversations. The goal should be never to get that point. Using electronic communication can help relationships, but saving the important conversations for face to face should be a priority. More of that and less disconnection could be critical in making sure that an attorney like me is never reading and attaching emails and text messages to declarations filed in court.
So what to do? Set up a lunch with someone you keep meaning to see. Do it once and I bet you will want to do it every month. Go to dinner with your partner and leave the phone at home. Try to commit to a daily “golden hour” (or longer) that is technology-free to spend with your spouse, partner, friends — or even with yourself. Connect. Do not let social media, texts, and emails take the place of face to face communication.