Cat Pleska Published

Essayist Misses the Old Ways Of Communicating




I just found out that if I were a Greek goddess, I’d be Athena! A proud and insightful warrior.

Or if I’m not Athena, maybe I was a royal queen in ancient Egypt. And this is fascinating—it turns out my aura is blue! These revelations must mean something!

Just take a few, or fifty, Facebook quizzes and you, too, can learn just how fascinating you are. It’s easy. Answer a few inane questions such as what’s your favorite movie or actor and the answer is: you’re Marilyn Monroe or Ryan Gosling!

I wonder: what did we do with our time before Facebook quizzes? Go down the street to visit a neighbor, who might offer you a cup of coffee and a chat? Or work in the garden cutting fresh flowers for a sick friend?

No need to find pen and paper, or type a letter, then struggle to find an envelope and stamp, just to keep in touch. Do it Cyber quick and post on a Facebook feed: how u doin? Lol — smiley face.

Give me the days of porch sitting on a hot summer night, listening to the stories of relatives. Lengthy conversations in person let us know who we come from and how to be in the world. The value of learning how to be in deep, lengthy, face-to-face conversations is still priceless.

Not one of my family or friends ever thought I was Athena, but they loved me anyway. And they showed it by listening to me, really hearing what I had to say. And the touch of my grandmother’s hand on mine as I listened to her funny or sad stories reminded me I was a vital part of a family.

Social Media is a wonderful way I contact folks via Facebook (but not Twitter—I can’t say anything in 140 characters) or to read their blogs. For people who aren’t mobile or who live far away, it’s a blessing. But it is one degree of separation that seems to stretch forever.

 I fear we are forgetting how to be in one another’s proximity, like sitting in a coffee shop mirroring one another’s joy or sadness. And I know through teaching that the upcoming generation is facing increasing anxiety once placed amidst real people, not avatars.

I hope we find our way back to being in touch—real touch–like a hug, or a handshake, more and more. Podcast or Skype if it’s impossible to be together, but if it is, then let me know your true self, and you can know the real me. I’m not a super hero or a movie star, but I am a little like Athena, a bit insightful: because I wish you were here.

Cat Pleska lives in Scott Depot, West Virginia. She is a regular writer for Wonderful West Virginia magazine. She teaches English at West Virginia State University and is the director of the WVSU Writing Center.