Investing time in relationships is better than spending time. This Christmas, give the gift of your presence.
Attention Economy1 — a new word that I have been contemplating recently. It is the reason why social media and other apps are trying to compete just to get your attention. Yes, they are doing that and most of the time you don’t even know it. I started being a Digital Minimalist since 2019 after reading the book Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport and it really affected my life greatly. My gripe towards the use of social media was just affirmed by the book and it even helped me a lot of use technology in a more intentional way.
Relationships and Social Media
One of the things that I hate the most is seeing people driving in their cars while scrolling their social media. For me, it is the worse thing that a responsible human being can do. Second to that is when people are eating on a table with their phones on their hands and not even talking. For me, the table is a sacred space shared by individuals not just to delight themselves with sumptuous meals but it is the moment they can share their lives together.
Bringing up the issue about attention economy, I think we have to be wiser in giving our undivided attention. Not only we could kill or get killed because of doing texting/social media while driving which we would consider an absolute loss, but also learning how to invest our attention properly. Social media promises to make people more connected to people, however, sometimes, we are just tethered to our technology. Nothing can truly replace human interactions as we have experienced all throughout 2020, where most of us are just using “technological alternatives” by using various platforms just to conduct our meetings and even video conferencing with loved ones. We know right deep in the core of our humanity that we need to be connected to humans. That’s why I learned how to invest in relationships, not just spend time with people.
Relationship Investing Yields Returns
The difference between spending and investing is that in spending, you are paying for something while in investing, you are paying off something with an expectation of returns. Yielding returns from an investment takes “time”. Similar to relationships, it grows over time. I have seen countless people having distant parents working from abroad or working more than an 8-hour shift just to “provide” for their families. Provide huge houses, the latest gadgets, cool toys, comfortable beds, and the list goes on. However, what are all these things when the “home” is not found among all this stuff?
Attachment is very essential within the family. However, we tend to associate love with gifts or money. Yes, love cannot pay the bills, however, if great wealth is at the cost of healthy attachments in the family, I think it is in no way sustainable for a long-term investment. Parents can never replace the “time” when their child got bruised while running on the streets, and they were thereby just simple buying them the latest toys.
Time invested in the family is irreplaceable with stuff we bring into our lives. Growing your relationship is a great investment in life. The irony is we often say that whatever we are doing (especially regarding our work) is because of our “family”. However, we lost track of time and see our children grow without even knowing what their favorite food or color is. I know it sounds a bit exaggerated, but it does happen. So do not lose the opportunity in an investment that yields.
Reframing our Language in Relationships
The moment I have learned about investing time and spending time, it was totally a game-changer. I have started evaluating my relationships — who among my friends add value to my life and which are not. Then every time I grab a coffee with someone, I make sure that I am “investing” my time with them. Engaging in wonderful, meaningful, and healthy conversations which we both enjoy. We can reframe the language of relationships that we got used to. Start investing in relationships by evaluating which will add value to your life or you will bring value to theirs. If none of the two options, then maybe you are just going to spend your precious time and attention on them.
Reposition Relationships in your Life
Once whether a person or relationship contributes to your life, it is about time to “reposition” them. You don’t just discard non-beneficial relationships but you can just put them in a position where they do not affect mostly about your life. You can only let people hurt you if you would allow them to hurt you. Similarly, you can only let people to inspire you if you would allow them to inspire you. How do I do that? I simply allow people to inspire me at a certain extent and harm me at a certain extent by placing healthy boundaries.
Boundaries are just like your gates in your relationships. It could protect you from harmful people within your circle and promote healthy relationships with the people you would allow entering your life. You can be selective to things such as looking for the right people whom you would listen to. In this world that people give unsolicited advice and information based on opinions, we have the capacity to filter out what we hear.
Relationships could be your priority
One of the best reflections I have this Christmas season is to give the gift of presence. We are overwhelmed about buying, giving, and receiving presents. But some presents mean nothing especially if it was out of compulsion to “preserve” a relationship. However, our presence and attention seem more valuable compared to the giving of presents this Christmas season. Give the gift of your presence today. Merry Christmas!
- The term “attention economy” was coined by psychologist, economist, and Nobel Laureate Herbert A. Simon, who posited that attention was the “bottleneck of human thought” that limits both what we can perceive in stimulating environments and what we can do. He also noted that “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention,” suggesting that multitasking is a myth. ↩