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Can we put down the cellphones, iPads, iPods and tablets? Can we take a hiatus from social media, if only for a moment, and talk?

If you’re an 80s kid like me, you grew up hearing the famed words of Joan Rivers – whether on late night TV, the red carpet or random infomercials: “Can we talk?”

It was her way of saying, “Can we cut the BS niceties and phony pleasantries that so often accompany Hollywood lifestyles and cut to the chase?”

Rivers was responsible for some of the most controversial discussions (and was often a topic of controversy herself) because she openly asked the questions everyone what was silently thinking to themselves.

Here we are now in the 21st century and I’m asking the same thing, but for a very different reason: “Can we talk?”

Literally…can we talk?

Can we put down the cellphones, iPads, iPods and tablets? Can we take a hiatus from social media, if only for a moment, and talk?

Texting it’s not the same as talking! And when did watching snippets of life on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and tumblr become synonymous with “being there” and “being present”? How does leaving a post or comment constitute genuine communication?

The internet is a beautiful thing. Don’t misunderstand me. You’ll often find me with my phone in hand; texting, tweeting, posting or blogging. But there’s a difference… I’m usually doing so in an effort to meet with and connect to people offline.

Even this blog is an attempt for me to share my thoughts and beliefs on an effort to inspire others into action within their own circles so that lives might be brightened – even if I never get to see them. In fact, this blog is perhaps the most impersonal of all my virtual outlets (which has me rethinking a thing or two now).

But my point is, can we talk? Can we get together over coffee or tea? Can we sit beside each other in silence while one of us cries? (I’ll bring the tissues). Can we look each other in the eyes and say I love you, rather than trying to decode it with emoticons and stickers (no matter how right they get it at times)?

Can we talk!? Barely….

I see it every day. We are losing our social aptitude; our emotional intelligence is declining rapidly. People don’t know how to listen anymore. Folks are offended when you ask questions because they no longer understand the concept of tone, inflection and nonverbal communication – they presume you’re trying to attack when you’re merely trying to understand.

Increasingly, with so many misunderstandings taking place via text and chats, it makes me wonder: What exactly will communication look like in the future? We won’t know how to understand each other in person, but will be equally inept in oral communication.

Those few who choose to sustain some form of analog connection will be deemed “relics” by the general population, though a handful will claim us as “classics” and “vintage” which will be “cool”.

Seriously?!

We’re losing an aspect of what makes us human…and humane.  The ability to look into a child’s eyes and know when when is wrong; whether she needs a hug or a helping hand. To see an old man fall and rather than record it, help him up!

Again, social media has profound effects and the capacity for serious good. Look at the media blaze created around Marissa Alexander, Meriam Ibrahim, David Bryant, The Ferguson Protests and even Bill Cosby (if it happened, it needs to be said).

All those stories not only got us talking, they got many of us acting. I personally helped several people galvanize in cities throughout the country. I have friends who’ve petitioned, rallied, testified before their legislators and are working to present bills that will change things in other “Fergusons” and “Floridas” around the country.

Shouldn’t the purpose of social media, tablets, texting and everything else be to service and enhance our lives offline? Why send me pictures of your life but never invite me to partake in it? I’d prefer a picture of a tea cup with a caption, “Join me for some?”

Think about it: When the purpose of the telephone was to catch up with people you didn’t get to see and make plans to see them. When you had to explore the world around you and actually talk to people because there was no GPS, no FourSquare, no Google cards. I’ve discovered some amazing places taking a wrong turn on a trip. Sometimes, I’ll turn off the mobile data, and lock down the Rand McNally maps app just to see what I can see.

Can we get back to that? Can we get out into the world and be together, explore together, see together? Can we be more to one another than “followers” and “Facebook friends”?  

Can we talk? I’d like that.

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