‘The eyes are the window to the soul’ – that old phrase, which most people will have heard, seems antiquated in an age where conversations can be held regardless of proximity. It’s already well noted that technology is impacting our ability to make and sustain eye contact, so, in windowless time, how are we connecting with others? What is technology’s equivalent passport to the soul?
Perhaps one such passport is Instagram; enabling visual pleasure from the act of looking, and the solution to our desire to be looked at. Meaning is drawn from contrived images, comments and captions. And yet, it is all to simple to forget that the posts we make are carefully selected, edited and tagged for an audience by an author. The people we view on the screen are images, representations. Online social media grants us a means to access simulations of life, but not the raw gestures, emotions, subtly of non-verbal cues of real life.
Feeling uninhibited online, removing our insecurities as we select the elements we expose, one might argue a greater freedom to be open online. And yet, what about the instances when one considers deleting previous moments from timelines, feeling over exposed and too vulnerable? One cannot delete memories of encounters from the minds of others, yet social media suggests removing posts strikes them from history. We favour our passport-screens over the eye-windows of others.
Eye contact becomes an alien tradition: an anachronistic mannerism of lower priority than our screens. Now, we hold fleeting gazes with others, feeling unsettled, anxious, bare, or vulnerable if the duration exceeds more than a few seconds. Devices lure our attention away from conversations; we mask our motives with excuses of ‘multitasking‘ or ‘business criticality’.
We humans learn from experience, and can grow from pressing past our comfort zone. Rather than relinquishing the power we gain from making eye contact, we can instead gain strength by taking the time to keep a level gaze. Let us regard the reactions and micro-expressions of others, and in turn deepen our understanding of those around us. Social media will continue, captured, timeless, regardless of a viewer; a simultaneous smile and flutter of eyelashes is gone in an instant.