It’s nice to have texts, Facebook and Whatsapp messages from friends staying in touch. It’s nicer to get a phone call and have a chat about things. It’s even better to sit with a friend or acquaintance for a while and talk. Tea and toast on top is just the best.
Lately I met a young man of about 30 who is a keen swimmer. In general conversation, sitting in a circle with other people the topic of horse-riding came up and all of a sudden I saw a quiver run across his lower lip, his face tightened and his eyes lowered. In that moment a dark shadow seemed to have engulfed him. In due course it emerged that he had had a riding accident in his adolescence which had left him deeply traumatised. A diagnosis of PTSD had been made and he had received treatment for a few years before he felt better. If I had been speaking with him about this on the phone, I would probably have missed the subtle clues that came through his body language.
They say 93% of communication is non-verbal. By paying attention to posture and facial expressions it is possible to guage someone’s feelings and to some extent thoughts. Our subconscious speaks through the way our body holds itself.
“How are you?”
“I am ok.”
How often do spoken words not match body language. The incongruity is apparent in person but not on text, Facebook or whatsapp.
It’s easy for us to think we have got in touch with our friends through these electronic media and be reassured by their answers but it is not difficult for them to hide behind these media and not reveal the whole truth.
September/October is the time when most students go back to their school or university and get busy settling down with their new friends, routines and courses. Saagar’s friends did the same while he stayed at home. We talked about that year being the ‘gap year’ which he had never taken. Once he got better we planned to go travelling. His friends couldn’t be there for him in person but they kept in touch with him through social media and the phone.
On the morning of ‘Day 0’ I called Saagar from work as usual around 10 am to wake him up. I noticed that he was a bit quieter than normal but that wasn’t entirely surprising. I texted him in the afternoon to ask how he was doing. Saagar’s last text to me was, “Just on a walk x”. The truth, but not the whole truth.