Beyond the Internet — Restoring the Human Connection

I remember when I lived in my cozy Cape house in Shrewsbury, MA. One of my close friends and I would invite all our friends to come over every few months for a potluck dinner that guaranteed interesting people, good food and good conversation.

Our collections of friends were eclectic, including people from many different work worlds and social circles. However, they were all nice people, and delighted to have the chance to hang out with one another for an evening. That was more than twenty years ago, when my friends and colleagues seemed to have more time to connect and converse face-to-face.

It seems with each passing year, finding a regular time to get together with even one close friend has become increasingly difficult. Over time, I have found myself spending less time face-to-face, and more time writing e-mails, a less than ideal way of trying to maintain connection in our crazybusy world.

Add to that being a single mom working in private practice as a psychotherapist, and the potential for disconnection and isolation increases exponentially. Strings of days can go by without face-to-face contact with a friend or colleague. Much as I love hosting ten-year-olds for playdates with my son, it’s not the same as sharing what’s on my mind or in my heart with another adult. I find myself hungry to “reach out and touch” the keyboard of my computer, hoping a friend or colleague might have written me some personal reflections, sprinkled in amongst the ongoing deluge of work or volunteer project-related correspondence.

“I have found myself spending less time face-to-face, and more time writing e-mails, a less than ideal way of trying to maintain connection in our crazybusy world.”

To add to this recipe for existential angst, I find that when looking to meet a long-term partner, the primary channel these days is Internet dating. An article I read in the Wall Street Journal said that 5% of the US population is on Match.com. That’s a whole lot of people to have to sort through, write to, wonder if you’ll hear back from, progress with some percentage to talking on the phone with, and maybe, just maybe, meet once face-to-face.

While I got an 800 on my math SAT’s, I never thought I would need to apply my innate mathematical skills to this kind of Herculean task. I dare you to try to solve this string of equations quickly: How many e-mails does it take to get to one phone conversation? How many phone conversations does it take to get one face-to-face meeting? And how many face-to-face meetings does it take to meet a person where there is actually a spark of connection worth pursuing to see if a partnership or even a friendship might unfold? And how many of these prospective friends or partners actually pan out over time?

Over the years, I have found myself at times overwhelmed with the quantities of would-be-suitors all appearing at once in my inbox, only to be winnowed out within days, leaving a silent void that could last for days, weeks or months. What makes me so popular sometimes and so unpopular at other times? The weather? The stars? Or does none of this have anything to do with me at all? Is it just a simple numbers game, with me being just one of the numbers? After going through this long enough, it becomes exhausting and surrealistic.

A Light in the Dark

Feeling weary and leary of more Internet experiences, I decided to sequester myself in my cave, albeit with my e-mail on. I found myself longing for the days in my Shrewsbury Cape house, where the comfort of the safe, cozy potluck parties fed my soul and there wasn’t even an Internet to contend with!

My friend Donna sent me an e-mail that really caught my eye. Her e-mail described potluck and wine tasting parties for “high integrity, optimistic, open minded, motivated men and women who want a long term monogamous relationship or marriage.” Donna had gone to one of these parties, held in a private home, and reported there were really nice people, good conversations and that this was something really worth checking out. My gut told me this was worth checking out.

I RSVP’ed to Richard, who hosted the parties, and arrived at his house at the appointed hour with my potluck contribution in hand. Very quickly, I was drawn to the two sweet dogs in the room next to the kitchen. But unlike in my twenties, where my social contact at events with strangers began and ended with the four-legged residents, it wasn’t long until a very nice woman started to talk with me, and I discovered there were really nice people there, too.

“In a short time, not only did I find myself in conversations with some very interesting men and women, but also two colleagues I had known twenty to twenty-five years ago appeared.”

In a short time, not only did I find myself in conversations with some very interesting men and women, but also two colleagues I had known twenty to twenty-five years ago appeared. One of them was not quite in my most inner circle of friends, but was certainly someone I had gotten together for lunch with often, and someone I really liked. She had brought another friend of hers along, who, like me, was a therapist, and had read my articles in Spirit of Change! The world started to get smaller there in Richard’s house.

And the best part of the evening was when Richard first shared his vision, after which we went around the room so everyone could introduce themselves to the whole group. Richard’s theory is based on looking at what makes a team or corporation succeed and excel. Rather than focusing on individual superstars, what is more important is whether “that superstar can bring out the potential in others, and can s/he work synergistically with others to produce results that are far superior than what each individual could do alone. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, applied to social networking.

Richard reflected, “Internet dating sites are good to view thousands of potential partners. That is their function. But we need to take it to the next level and build on that. We need to be givers, not takers. Why? Because you can get anything in life you want if you help enough other people get what they want.”

People were encouraged to make friends, to talk about their businesses, to network in any way that was of mutual interest, to share resources. And maybe, along the way, as people shared their visions and their time with one another, some romantic sparks might fly as well. His words and his vision warmed my heart.

I ended up in a very interesting conversation with several women. It turns out that in spite of years of therapy and highly refined communication skills, all of us had experienced relationships with men who initially thought we were just what they wanted, but as a year or two went by — “poof” — they were gone. We wondered, were we under the influence of unresolved intergenerational issues that have been passed down energetically to us by our parents and the generations before them? Why were so many good people having such a hard time finding people who would actually “work” a relationship and value this investment over time? While we couldn’t necessarily come up with answers, it was nice to have comarades pondering these questions.

“I concluded that these parties were not only a breath of fresh air in light of the options available in the search for a committed life partner, but also that they had the potential to fill lots of other needs people have today.”

As my night was winding down, I concluded that these parties were not only a breath of fresh air in light of the options available in the search for a committed life partner, but also that they had the potential to fill lots of other needs people have today. I could surely use some more friends who are available to get together for lunch and do fun activities. Having other people to speak with about the process of finding a healthy relationship felt like a gift of spirit. Even just meeting high quality interesting people for its own inherent value — with seeds planted at more levels than we can ever know — was nourishing.

I drove home feeling really happy, that this was a forum where we could co-hold one another’s visions. And I felt a bit of divine architecture unfolding. Along the lines of Paul Stookey’s lyrics, “The union of your spirits here has caused Him to remain. For whenever two or more of you are gathered in his name, there is love.” Yes, there was love. And it wasn’t just the romantic kind. It was a profoundly nourishing, pervasive spiritual kind. The kind from which all things are possible.

Linda Marks, MSM, has practiced body psychotherapy for more than 20 years, and works with individuals, couples and groups in Newton, MA. She is the founder of the Boston Area Sexuality and Spirituality Network and the single mother of a vital 10 year old son. Contact Linda at LSMHEART@aol.com or http://www.healingheartpower.com.