Am eye in love?

Nari Mathis

If you have ever taken a glamorous bite of an apple, face scrunched up, predatorily baring your teeth and all, only to look across the DC and make eye contact with some unfortunate soul, you are not alone. If you have ever checked — rather thoroughly — whether or not your new deodorant is masking your body odor, only to notice a not-so-casual peeping Tom across the bleachers, you are not alone. If you have struggled with understanding what consistent catches of the eye mean, especially in a cultural context of a school that subversively encourages marriage, you are not alone.

Eyes say a lot of things. They convey a multitude of emotions — you might see pure, animalistic rage in the eyes of someone cut in the french fry line, or romantic interest in the repeated occasion of connecting eyes as you consider their eligibility as a significant other, to varying degrees of seriousness. They wonder, ask, judge, love. The tenuousness of eye contact necessarily evokes the notion that it is a psychological art to reading others unspoken thoughts.

The rise of technology has severely lessened our ability to remain present. Our phones have an app to remind us how much time we are spending outside of reality, on the internet. In all the wasted hours pondering along with Buzzfeed, does my Oreo preference really align with my horoscope, or scrolling miles down Twitter threads, we lose an integral part of our humanity — the ability to relate with one another.

Is that girl judging my bold combination of vertical and horizontal stripes or lauding me? Is that guy wondering if the names of our future children are cohesive or how I just inhaled five cups of hummus? I will concede that in a given situation, several explanations could be working together. However, it is simply taking too much time and energy to confidently examine other human beings’ responses. Where we flounder in vis-à-vis interactions, we have dedicated our potential to quickly overanalyzing. What do three little bubbles mean? What is he really thinking when he sends a smiley face? 

We have taken it upon ourselves to become experts of technological discernment, and as a result, we have drastically removed the element of real life. In a myriad of ways, eye contact is leagues more dynamic than a screen. To model Shakespeare’s archaic language, “thine eyeballs areth the stained glass windows to thy soul.” It humanizes us; it rips away the safety veil of the internet, and reminds us that human beings ultimately cannot be pinned down by one glance. The awkward encounter you had in Ritchie’s might not be representative of your entire life, but the ability to interpret others’ needs and wants in the form of something as simple as eye contact, will prove a useful skill, wherever you are. Maybe if we stopped thinking of cyber interactions as the only norm, then there would be less misunderstanding and more fellowship.

Is the environment of a private, liberal arts Christian college causing us to profoundly mistake what it means to look at another human being in the eyes? Is technology eradicating the beauty of a sincere greeting? The increasing amounts of misinterpretation by mode of eye contact should raise at least one concern. Our intrinsic and unifying understanding of the human condition, especially as we attempt to navigate a broken world, is becoming more estranged at our preference of a cyber safety net over a radically mundane encounter with one another. We must remind ourselves that the abundant fruit from lasting interpersonal relations in real life always surpasses the escapism we seek in hiding behind our screens.

Jordan Douthit