At some point, we all take a technology detox involuntarily – that weekend where we’re out camping and can’t get a good signal or are stuck on a plane for hours, or voluntarily – when we go dark and just shut off the phone and computer for our own sanity.
I do both from time to time.
I’m 46 years old and I remember when, if I left the house, I was off the grid. No one could find me. Unless someone else was home, no one could leave a message for me. Instead of texting the BFF, we passed notes in the hallway between classes. If I wanted to have a conversation longer than 5 minutes, I had to do it in person.
We had a rule in my house that if a conversation could wait until the morning, then I waited to talk to my friends on the bus, in the hallways, or in class if I was feeling particularly brave that day. I did not spend a lot of time on the phone as a teen. Phone service did not include “call waiting” and my Mom loathed the busy signal turning away grownup conversations. Furthermore, my parents paid for the phone service. Their house, their money, their rules.
I received my first cell phone in 2003. I was 34 years old. It was a Nextel push-to-talk model and what a novelty it was to be able to hear from someone when I was not at home. “Hey, we’re watching a movie at 8, come on over.” “Sally’s sick and we need to go to the doctor, can you come watch the baby?” or my favorite, when my phone was in my purse under my desk at work (a church), “This is Satan. How may I ruin your day?”
Having a cell phone was so much fun. I was connected to people in a way I never had been before, available 24-7 for good times (“we’re having a baby!”) and bad times (“I’ve been in a wreck, can you come get me?”). In a very short time, this method of communication became a necessity and not a privilege or other option.
Twelve years later, there are times I want to throw the damn cell phone out the window.
- I like sleep. There have been times I get non-emergency texts after midnight and even if they are from other time zones, I wonder, “why does this person not think I might be asleep?”
- I have set a Do Not Disturb rule that will silence texts from 10 PM – 8 AM, and I am thinking of expanding that to 9 AM. It’s not personal. It’s self-defense.
- Facebook (other social media) notification stalking.
- Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and I might check Facebook and read a bit before I fall back to sleep, or so I can fall back to sleep. This does not mean I am up for a conversation! The Facebook stalking must stop! (if I had a dollar for every time someone did this to me). If you get alerts whenever I post something or like something, do not think I am coherent enough for conversation, especially from 10 PM – 9 AM. And on weekends – not until 11 at least!
- I do not hear as well as other people, and I was born that way. Out of the 5 ranges of hearing, I have the middle 3 and those are deteriorating as I get older.
- I prefer talking on a regular handset because that cups around my ear and I can hear more clearly. Talking on the cell phone is painful unless I am in my car on the bluetooth, on speaker or wearing headphones.
- If a person is soft-spoken or can’t enunciate, I can’t understand them when I am on a cell phone. Saying “Huh” 101 times when a text will suffice is not my idea of fun or effective communication. I can’t read their lips to aid in the process of understanding if I can’t see them. (yes, this is why, in a noisy room, I am often looking at your lips rather than your eyes).
- I am what Meyers-Briggs terms an INFJ. I use my words sparingly and I greatly value my alone, recharging time.
- I do not like being available to everyone all the time. I can’t do it. I tried it, it wore me out.
- If I do not answer your text or phone call or like your FB post, it’s not personal. I haven’t had time to do so, or I really just want to enjoy my quiet time a little longer.
- If I do not answer your text or phone call right away, I am not avoiding you, persecuting you, angry with you, or punishing you. I may get angry with you if you ask if my silence or non-talkativeness indicates anger toward you. My silence is about me almost 100% of the time.
- I don’t even talk on the phone with my BFF, who is also an INFJ. We text, we have our own chatroom on FB, we SnapChat, and occasionally, we will talk via video features on the iPhone or SnapChat. We are closer than ever.
- Did I mention it’s not personal?
- I do enjoy talking – in person. I love meeting new people, hearing their stories, and telling my own. When I go home, to my haven, however, speaking is a communication mode of last resort.
My phone is not surgically sewn to my hand. I put it down – often – and walk away from it. If I cannot have a life without this phone, this connectivity, it’s not good for me at all. I am not bound to it (and believe me, I used to be). I used to sleep with the phone so I would be able to respond to it 24-7. After all, if one does not answer texts and phone calls, people eventually stop calling, right? And while sometimes this is true, I don’t need to be connected to people who NEED to be connected to me that much.
I feel sorry for people who cannot have a conversation in person with another person without grabbing that phone to check it. If I have come out of my haven to spend time with you, the biggest insult you can give me is to give that time to someone else on the other end of a phone for something that could definitely wait until I have left your presence.
I want to expand on the other reasons I do not rush to answer texts or return phone calls. I suppose it’s because I was born before the 24-7 connected age, but I do not want to be 24-7 connected (except maybe with the BFF).
Reasons why/things I may be doing while not returning your text/phone call:
- I am in the bathroom.
- I am driving.
- I’m at work (baffles me how people don’t get how this is a boundary).
- I am working on a photography/writing/creative project and I do not want to stop to chat.
- I am with someone else. (I can’t believe how many people have conversations with other people while sitting with me, let me just say that will happen with me ONE time).
- I am not Google.
- I cannot adult today.
- I cannot person today.
- I am reading a book.
- I’m meditating.
- I’m on vacation, on a trip, on a sabbatical.
- I’m being examined by a doctor.
- I am cleaning.
- I am cooking.
- I am taking photos with my phone.
- I am playing a game.
- I am folding laundry.
- I am doing yoga.
- I am with the BFF in person.
- I am living my life.
Nothing in this post is written to offend, and no examples are aimed at one person because more than one person has done this to me in 12 years’ time. If you do, however, feel a pang of something, try putting your phone down for an hour and walking away from it. If you have an issue with this, you might want to think about your need for the cell phone.
I love hearing from people – via text or otherwise. Just give me the courtesy of answering you when it’s convenient for me, whether that be in 5 minutes or an hour or a day. Technology is there for my convenience, and I will keep it at arm’s length to keep it that way.
It’s not personal.