In an age of increasing digitalization and media usage, virtual communication has become a standard practice. A message, Snapchat or post has become the rule, rather than an exception. In an effort to save time, we bypass in-person communication and favour the use of screens. We place implicit trust in our iPhone, with all its elegant simplicity, to convey our abstract emotions and thoughts, and code them into transmissible bits of data.
However, this form of communication has never been satisfying to me, as I am a physical person. To forego the pleasure of hearing someone’s voice, or reading their body language is to miss out on a quintessential part of the human experience. I find it difficult to infer the tone in someone’s voice without looking into their eyes. There remains a fraction that is left unsaid in conversation which is traceable through the minute expression of our faces. To speak face to face is intimate, the sheer physicality of the experience allows us to engage more than through a screen.
Thus, a conversation with a friend has always had the power to be incredibly regenerative for my spirit. Burden and stress seem to dissipate when they are shared with someone else. Spoken language serves not only as a form of self-expression, but as relief for many. To carry the full weight of your thoughts and sensory stimuli you experience may be overwhelming. However, the ability to share my fears, my happiness, and all the flavors in between with my friends, is what makes my connection with them so strong.
In this era of globalization, where mobility is readily accessible, the unfortunate reality is that many of my friends live in other countries, other continents. Thus, while it is not possible to see them; I love to call, to hear their voices, to know what they are doing in locations so remote from mine.
My best friend Keah, living in Waswanipi, Quebec, sends me pictures of snow in mid-October. The first few minutes of our calls nearly always consist of fluctuant laughter, intermixed with a variety of enthusiastic “Hi’s”. Our chatter fluctuates between mindful and mindless, as she tells me her stories of teaching in a Cree community, and I, of my hospital placement. I know the colours of her voice, instinctively and characteristically. When she is red, she is pure electricity-fire spreading through her veins. Yellow is more solemn, but cheerful and her blue, though never mellow, is more pragmatic, when she feels more careful. This polychromic spectrum of her personality is so familiar to me, though our relationship remains transcontinental.
My friend Luis calls in the ungodly hours of the early morning. Spanish time is notoriously different from any other time in the world. A party ends when it ends, and life is felt deliciously slow. We speak in Spanish and I feel myself take on a different character, through this romantic language.
My grandma in Poland always calls me on Sunday. Her voice always painted with concern, if I am eating, if I am breathing, if I am living. The warmth in her voice is nearly tangible, our conversations always feel like a hug.
The relationships we have with others, affect us in ways that even we can’t discern. We are the sum of our relations, rather than individual entities. To be able to define myself, I need my friends and my family as they are necessary descriptors of my character and values. What I choose to take and what I reject from my everyday surroundings is a personal choice, but nonetheless, I am directly and indirectly affected by my environment. These external inputs are important, as they become part of us and undeniably form our character and identity.