The Real and the Unreal Mobile Kiss

It’s possible to dive into your mobile phone. Imagine that dive – you leap forward over the edge and you see the water below. You surrender to it. Soon the water is all around you, but you find you can breathe. In some ways, it’s floating, and you can just let go. In the process of doing so, you gain an ease, but you lose something of yourself. Are you sure you want to?

Day 1 – Bright and sunny

A text arrives, and you are in the flow. You gave yourself up to the medium years ago, so it isn’t only you who reaches for the device, but your fingers. It’s no different to reaching for another nut or cookie. It is your hand, but it is sort of working in partnership with you. You trust it to reach and also to decide to reach on your behalf.

When we are immersed in a habit, our limbs claim a bit of autonomy from our will. They contain memory, and they know what to do without too much fresh will force from us. If we’ve decided the habit isn’t something we want to break, then the will doesn’t need to be too involved in that act of reaching for another nut…

A text arrives and you are in that habitual, floating flow. So, of course you’ve picked up the device. And it’s from your partner and she says she’s looking forward to seeing you later in the week. Your finger taps and “X” and this kiss has gone. It’s a kiss that isn’t felt in the finger tips though it might be imagined in the head’s mental model of the lips. The real lips do not move a micro-millimetre. It’s a kiss without will. It has a life of its own. When your partner receives the text, the kiss is read. In her case, she imagines it, believes it. She believes you mean it as a kiss. Well, you do, in your mental picture, but not in your will in the moment you sent it. The will played little or no part. The action was automatic. A kiss was imagined by the receiver, but it wasn’t equalled by the gesture of the sender.

She replies with two XX’s of her own. You read them, noticing them first in your thoughts and then, because there are two, your lip quivers a tiny, tiny bit.

Day 2 – cloudy and dull

A text arrives. Your partner has typed:

“I miss you. XXX”

Three! You are doing well today!

Then something shifts. You frown. Your stomach tightens.

As your fingers reach automatically for the device, you suddenly engage your will and still your hand.

You aren’t sure why, but in one moment you see your hand as something separate from you, with a life of its own. With a will of its own. It is about to type something that you are, at best, only partially involved with.

You gave it permission many times in the past to act without your full conscious involvement.

And now, there it is, a limb of yours, yet not quite yours.

You flex your fingers. As if for the first time.

You then notice your urge to type.

It’s an urge of will that you feel inside, trying to flow into your hand, then into your fingers.

You notice the urge as if you’ve noticed an object separate from you.

You hold the urge back. You feel its pull.

You feel suddenly stronger for having taken ownership of, not only your hand, but also the urge.

You are still. Trembling  just a little.

She has sent you three kisses.

And you want to reply. The urge is still pulling.

This time, and you aren’t sure why, you close your eyes.

You try to imagine her. Your partner.

It’s a shock. You can’t remember the details of her face, though you saw her only last week and have known her for years.

You reach for your will. Her eyes, her forehead, her brown hair, her lips. Suddenly you remember her kiss. It flows into your imagination. You see it. You feel it and you want to respond. You become aware of your wanting. And this wanting feels so much more a part of you. Yet you are still separate from it. You can take hold of it.

And you do.

You imagine a kiss. A real kiss. And you then blow a kiss into the air, filling it with intention. You send it in your mind and in a turn of your head through geographical space. It becomes a real gesture. You imagine it and you send it.

Then you open your eyes.

The text is still there on the phone.

Your hand is still held out, the fingers now clutched into a fist.

Your will is strong.

Holding the real gesture of the kiss, you now take hold of the phone as if for the first time.

You read her text, as if for the first time.

You recall her face, her kiss and the kiss you just sent across space as a real kiss.

You then slowly, sensually and deliberately press one key: “X”.

Then “Send”.

Across space, another soul receives a text. Reads and then smiles.


One thing I have discovered is that, if you slow down your texting, and give yourself time to think what you want to text, to picture the person you are texting to, when you press’ Send’ it all feels more conscious and satisfying.

Forming your text as a fresh thinking activity, with some imagination of the other person as well, is a bit like tasting food properly. It is the same with reading texts. Read the text, then sit back and think about it. Reproduce the essential content of the text away from the device, in your own thinking and imagination processes. Allow yourself to feel a reaction, to let the content of the text impress itself upon you before you begin to form a reply. Taste it before sending it. Taste it when receiving it. Digest it. Let the content work upon you away from staring at the million-times-a-second-on-off flashing screen.

It actually enhances the quality of the texts. Fingertips have memory and tend to reach for the nearest, easiest, cliche. Fingertips use physical energy, and tiring fingers can tend to shortcut the phrasing, which can be useful for functional texting, for work and admin-type texts, but can undermine connection when we are texting something that is emotionally important to us, Texting and text language is a whole world of shorthand “SMS language” but an eloquent text, formed as a self-enclosed cognitive and willed activity by a person BEFORE they even type it, can give both sender and receiver a sense that the communication is more special, authentic and even real.

Try it. Take a bit longer over your text.

Think, feel and will the message without staring at the screen.

Consciously type it with awareness of your fingers.

Reflect on it, refine it and re-imagine it.

Decide it is ready to send – as an act of choice – an act of will.

Send it.

This need not take a long time. These can be fairly swift acts of consciousness. But what we are doing here is tasting our food – our food for thought; we are letting the text nourish us properly; we are digesting it; we are then drawing on the energy that arises to form a conscious and healthy response.

We need never lose ourselves in mobile communication as long as, when we are first thinking, feeling and willing our response, we are not falling into automatic behaviour, prey to cliche and a kind of half-conscious super-quick reactionary compulsion.

Slow down to the level of your humanity.

Enjoy a new and more conscious pace that will feel like you are deciding where to put your feet. And When.

Act from freedom.

And, most of all, enjoy.

About Paul Levy

Paul is a writer, thinker, facilitator, theatre-maker, and conversifier. He is the author of the book, Digital Inferno.

Posted on September 11, 2012, in Key themes. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I wanted to ‘like’ this, but in the context of the spirit of the piece it seemed too easy, so I’m writing this comment instead …

    I’m a committed reader of Marshall McLuhan, he of ‘The Medium is The Message’, which seems very relevant to this whole debate (which was aired a bit at ‘The Crirical Incident’ in Brighton this summer.) A new technology forces us to respond to its capabilities in a different manner – it actually changes our behaviour and thought patterns.

    This year is the centenary of Lawrence Durrell’s birth, and The Guardian did a pod-cast on ‘The Alexandria Quartet’ with, among others, Jan Morris. She talked (on what is essentially a radio programme) exclusively about the sensuality and imagery of the writing, then later in a newspaper review of the same books she concentrated on the psychological underpinnings, and on the quartet’s examination of Einstein’s Relativity theories in the way the four books give different interpretations of the same events. Much more cerebral piece, and interesting that it was the print version giving the extended intellectual analysis, while the ‘radio’ concentrated on emotions. All very McLuhan …

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