Every week as an LGBTQ therapist, without fail, I hear stories of hurt feelings and painful miscommunication stemming from the use of technology. It’s obvious that many friends and boyfriends tend to share personal and difficult feelings through text and email.
Because it is easier. It is less scary to state a vulnerable truth when typing alone on your screen, compared to looking into someone’s face and seeing his reaction. We worry less about being judged, and we avoid his hurt or uncomfortable eyes.
We feel safest expressing ourselves when we are alone, where no one can see us.
When he does respond, we know he’ll probably respond through technology. We’ll be alone as we read and he won’t see how vulnerable we look. What a relief that we can hide once more.
Being a Man
Men aren’t raised to express their tender emotions. Little girls have more permission to cry and say, “You hurt my feelings.” If little boys tried to process their feelings, they might be shunned from the playground for years. Really, it makes no sense.
So it’s a leap for a man to gather his courage, take a deep breath, and do something uncomfortable like share a vulnerable feeling, in-person.
Why should we take that time to say it face-to-face, especially when we are so busy?
Because these days we are constantly hurting each other, usually inadvertently, with our texts. Our friends are misunderstanding what we are communicating because they don’t have the cues of your face and tone. According to the famous research on this subject by Professor Albert Mehrabian:
55% of messages pertaining to feelings are in facial expression
38% of messages pertaining to feelings are the way that words are said
7% of messages pertaining to feelings are in the words
In other words, 93% of communication is through your facial expression and tone of voice.
All that is lost in a text or email. We only read the perceived slight and ignore the rest. With so little information, we fill in blanks and assume the worst. This is human nature.
If you have feelings to share, don’t text them. Don’t email them. Be braver. Pick up the phone and call, or save it for your next face-to-face experience.
Friends and boyfriends are rare and precious, and they deserve that kind of attention. I apologize for being morbid, but relationships are the only thing we’ll be thinking about on our deathbed. They count.
Long ago, many of us learned to avoid eating a whole bag of Fritos if we want to feel well. And we figured out that after two servings of ice cream, the third helping doesn’t taste that good.
Or that two drinks relax us but five drinks give us a headache the next day.
Most of us are just now learning that a little technology is good, but that more isn’t better. Just like with drugs and alcohol, it’s very easy to lose our mindfulness with technology and end up with a technology hangover.
A technology hangover occurs when we realize it’s harder for us to concentrate. Or to listen to someone for an extended period. Or when our anxiety rises when we haven’t checked our phones.
Gay men are often on the cutting edge of trends. And since we led the jump into smart phones, I believe the amount of relaxation we experience in our lives has declined. Perhaps we can lead the way back to more peace.
Is It Easy To Reduce?
No, it’s not easy to change habits. It takes lots of practice, with missteps along the way. But the payoff if we keep at it? A life with a greater shot at experiencing joy.