I was chatting with my friend Shona the other Monday and something she said touch a nerve. Let me set the scene so you’ll know where this is coming from: Shona and I used to be part a creativity group in Jakarta, called the “GGs,” that met every Monday. Our weekly meeting began with creativity recovery study and morphed into everything chats a la “The View.”
Anyway, now the GGs have scattered, we are all recreating our lives in various places. Consequently, Monday groups have morphed into occasional social media meetings.
Shona and hold GG Skype-a-thons—Shona from South Africa, me from WHB or Trinidad—by carting our devices around we make the most of our face time. We chat, show each other recent remodel progress—or not . . . make coffee & tea, take occasional potty breaks (blank screen), holler at each other from various parts of the room, commiserate, rejoice, problem solve, inspire, motivate . . . It’s not ideal, but it keeps us in touch.
So, during our last chat, I asked Shona if she was getting out, making friends. (Yes, it’s the same “Mom Question” regardless of age.) I asked because I’m worried I’m destined for Hermitville. I am not someone who needs anybody to keep me busy. Curtis is the same way. We can put-put-putter way days and still have room for more. So, making friends doesn't come easy, it's work. I’m afraid once we retire to this new village where, as the children like to tease, “the only people we talk to are those we pay—our contractor, George, the Barista, Counter Girl at the cleaners, Recycle Center guy, Hedge Clipper guy . . . We have actually gone to local restaurants where, mid-way through the meal, I've leaned forward and whispered “Once we live here, will any of these people be our friends?”
Shona, however, is much more extroverted. No matter where she is, she seems to find new people. So, I was taken aback when she said, she wasn’t looking for friends. That she “didn’t need anybody” new. She went onto explain: “If I want to talk, I can call you or (she named off several other friends), then concluded with, “So why bother trying to find new people I have anything in common with when all I need to do is skype one of you?”
About the same time, if not the same day, another friend, Jayme, emailed* a New York Times Op Ed piece entitled “Losing our Touch” which began:
The article went on to note how the term “touched me” as in “A song touched me” or “Wasn’t her speech touching” stems from the way words or a scene trigger an emotional response so visceral we literally feel it. “Touch is the most universal of the senses,” as Aristotle noted.
Not to dis Aristotle--or more probably, that translation--I think saying touch is the “most universal sense” is incorrect. Touch isn’t one sense, it’s all 5 senses—taste, sight, sound, smell, tactile—engaged at the same time. Aristotle’s “universal” touch is the full-orchestral performance—including the smell of the crowd and the crush of hot shoulder against shoulder.
The article is not about keeping friends connected or about making new friends. It’s about not dating or needing to date. It’s about hooking up via social media to hook up. Which made me think how, conversely—or not—our increasing reliance on social media to keep us in touch is making it easier and easier to be out of touch, literally.
What’s wrong with touching, keeping in touch, staying in touch, touching, connecting via social media? Not a thing! It’s fabulous for keeping friends and family “In Touch,” as we have already amassed memories and can in essence fill-in the sensory blanks. It might even be, a much needed answer to how people can find each other in these busy times. But it’s not the real thing, baby!
In touch via social media is the “record player” version of touch. At best two of the five senses:, sound & sight, are engaged in the experience, in essence reducing “touchy-feely” to touchy.
(Obviously, for me, a touchy subject.)
I recently read Meg Rosoff’s debut novel How I Live Now. (If you haven’t read it, do.) As read, I kept thinking to myself: What must they smell like?
And then when the girls come upon evidence of recent carnage, the scene Rosoff described was uncomfortably visceral, too vivid. Why?
Because I know what rot smells like. I have amassed a trove of sensory images to call upon. I've exchanged molecules with gore.
But what of younger readers?
They may well have the visual memory--in itself disturbing--but what of the visceral?
For me as a person, and as a writer, I’m worried.
Growing up in our disinfected, anti-bacterial, perfumed, connected world, are people amassing the visceral memories needed to be "touched" the trove? Are we making time for face-to-face time needed to create memories--sensory and other?
If we don’t make an effort to keep in touch, how long before we lose touch with touch?
How long before “touch” really does grow cold? And does it matter?
The “In Touch” Playlist:
- Touch Me in the Morning, sung by Diana Ross
- The Way Things are Going by The Beatles
- Out of Touch, Out of Time, by Hall & Oats
- See Me, Feel Me from Tommy
- I’m Losing You by the Temptations
- With a Little Help from My Friends by The Beatles
- Touch-A Touch-A Touch-A from Rocky Horror Picture Show—rrrrrrrrrrr scratch that… totally inappropriate, but now it’s stuck on replay. Listen at your own risk:
On a lighter note: When I searched for the utube of Out of Touch I came upon a couple of lists of misheard lyrics: “Banana touch, banana time . . . “??? Cracks me up!
Thanks for reading!
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