Look me in the eye…


February 2017, article published originally in El Periódico de Catalunya


Look me in the eye…

…and tell me. Don’t write me an email or send me a whatsapp. I don’t like voice messages either. I want to hear it directly from your mouth, listen to your expression, see your tone, sense from that slight movement of your eyebrows what you’re feeling. And be able to answer you as I go. Don’t come telling me that an emoticon transmits what you want to say.

On the record, I haven’t read it yet, but the book by the scholar of the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sherry Turkle, Reclaiming Conversation, looks promising. It broaches a growing problem. We use screens to protect ourselves from our surroundings, to avoid speaking with other human beings, to run from direct contact, skin on skin, indeed, from looking each other in the eye, chatting and connecting with one another, something that makes us more human.

I’m not against emails or texting. Used well, they are formidable, but, don’t you think we are overdoing it? This calls for profound collective reflection.

I have always believed that there are things that are worth writing down because when one puts thoughts on paper, he or she seems to be saying more. A love letter, intimate, directed at our loved one, replete with words bathed in honey, is unbeatable. Nevertheless, should a heated personal debate or a recrimination for (apparent) misbehavior be broached on the keyboard of an electronic device? The answer from society is increasingly taking on an affirmative tone. Maybe it’s more comfortable, but in the long run, those bits are robbing us of our humanity, enslaving us more and more. Careful because emails are the work of the devil.

Technology exists to make our lives easier: But we mustn’t forget that what distinguishes us as a species is our creative intellect, which allows us to be empathetic.

Politics are nuances, finesse, debate, comprehension, and acceptance of another. Mr. and Ms. Politician, don’t tweet politics.

What are the implications of sliding along this dangerous cliff? We’re losing focus of what makes us understand the one standing next to us. A couple of examples: 20% of people between 18 and 34 years of age, as notes the Boston scholar mentioned earlier, respond to a phone call while having intimate relations. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Second, politics a la tweet. Please, let’s not live our lives subjected to 140 letters. Politics are nuances, finesse, debate, comprehension, and acceptance of another. Mr. and Ms. Politician, don’t tweet politics.

Have you tried to send a hand written postcard recently? For years, when email was already pervasive, each summer I took pleasure (or bothered, depending on how one looks at it) in writing postcards, with personalized text for some one hundred people. The impact was unbelievable. I don’t think I’ll do it anymore. I’m going to look people in the eye, write fewer messages, and let people into my soul. It’ll expose me more, make me more vulnerable. And more human also.


This article was originally published in Spanish in El Periódico de Cataluña. The picture is by Sybil Liberty.