My Cell Phone Phobia, Part One: ‘The Problem’

posted in: Tips 6
Girls on phones — are they as anxious as I am? Image: Wikipedia.


How was Christmas?? Was everything okay? Did you eat cookies? I got a hairdryer! It’s the only thing I asked for, so I’m batting 1000. Now, onto a serious matter:

I have terrible cell phone anxiety.

The first cell phone I ever had I got the summer after college, right before I moved to Chicago. It was a Samsung flip phone, the pre-iPhone era. I remember being excited to have a number with a Chicago area code. I remember thinking the flip thing was cool. But I’m pretty sure that right away, I started to not like answering my phone when it rang. And when texting became a thing, I remember being extremely resistant to responding to texts in a timely fashion, most of the time.

But why?

To answer that question, I’m going to get a little armchair-psychologist on you; just bear with me.

When we don’t do something we’re supposed to do — or when there’s something we shouldn’t do but we keep doing it, anyway — it’s worth asking what deeper reasons might causing the detrimental behavior.

For example, if a kid is told over and over again that he shouldn’t hit his little brother but he keeps doing it, at a certain point it becomes more important (and far more effective) to ask lil’ dude what’s going on with his emotions and his heart. Is he frustrated with something? Is he sad? Maybe he needs attention. Maybe he doesn’t feel like anyone’s listening to him and he hits his brother so someone will look at him for once. The point here is that human beings have exquisite reasons for doing the things we do, even if the things we do are lame/weird/not helpful. Such as hitting your kid brother.

Or being “terrible” at cell phones.

I’m starting to understand something big about my cell phone problem because I’ve been looking at the whole situation with compassion instead of guilt and shame. (Amazing when you turn the tables on yourself with love, eh?)

The truth is, I hate that I have to have a telephone-computer-homing device with me at all times and that I will have said device, in whatever incarnation it takes, from now until I die. I deeply resent the tyranny of this small, plastic and metal box which pings and dings at me incessantly. It startles me. It breaks my concentration. And for the priviledge of all this, I pay an awful lot of money, just like you do.

I know I sound like a real luddite jerk. I’m not! I love GPS and being able to look up definitions of words while I’m waiting for an elevator. I love being able to check my email while I’m on the bus. I love Instagram! I love the Southwest app! And the other apps! Most of them!

In fact, part of the reason I hate cell phones so much is precisely because they allow for these kinds of things. My cell phone sucks me in when there are other things that could suck me in (e.g., the landscape, the beautiful woman sitting near me on the train speaking Swahili to her son, etc.), but other, real-life things are usually no match for flashing, beeping screen pictures, because people are like crows and crows are easily distracted by shiny objects. I am a person. I like shiny objects. I’m a crow, too. I get it.

So my friends and family get hurt because I turn my phone off a lot. I have missed important calls. I’ve played games of phone tag so long it approached being an Olympic sport. If you leave a voicemail for me … Woe, woe unto you. Checking my voicemail is like dental work for me; ergo, I don’t get around to checking it very often. This is bad. This is not good. Something has to change. I have to make peace with the phone thing.

Guess what? Peace is being delivered tomorrow — as in, UPS is bringing peace and will leave it in the receiving room.

I’ll explain everything tomorrow — and this time, I won’t leave you hanging. Hey! That’s kind of a phone joke. “Hanging”? Get it? Like a phone? Hanging up? Like …

Let’s just talk tomorrow.

6 Responses

  1. Brenda King
    | Reply

    Dear Mary- It has been a very long time since phones “hung!” Can’t wait to hear the finalization of this episode! : ) Brenda King

  2. Terry
    | Reply

    I love reading your thoughts Funny, though, many years ago we would get together to talk over tea, lemonade and cookies, now we hover over our phones and texted back and forth eating our cookies.

  3. Mary Spriet
    | Reply

    Dear Mary, I think I suffer from whatever this cell phone phobia thing is too. I have a tracfone, it is a smart phone with all the gadgets. I don’t need to spend hundreds & hundreds of dollars on a phone I rarely use. So for me it’s basically just an emergency or in use on vacation type of convenience. Yes, I still have a phone on the wall & on my desk at home. I also have a home based longarm business. So I work at home. My problem is I dislike phones in general. While I understand & do appreciate all the conveniences, I just don’t enjoy making phone calls. I will put it off for as long as it is possible. … even to call my customers so they can come get their quilts & I’ll get paid!. I don’t know why I’m like this. I just think it’s so sad to see people that cannot put down their phone for one minute. Even at the dinner table, it has to be sitting right there next to their plate. Manners are all out the window. …..and I’m not afraid to say so. No phones at my table~~~~ So you see, maybe you;re rebelling or maybe your trying to preserve human contact & some respect for basic manners.

    • Mary
      | Reply

      Mary … Is it a Mary thing?? This is exactly the problem for me, only I’m not a longarmer: “While I understand & do appreciate all the conveniences, I just don’t enjoy making phone calls. I will put it off for as long as it is possible. … even to call my customers so they can come get their quilts & I’ll get paid!”

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  5. Judy Forkner
    | Reply

    I turn off notifications for email, because I get so many & I don’t want to hear that little ding every time a new one comes in. When my husband 1st got his smart phone, his email notifications were driving me crazy! We’d be out for a walk & his phone would ding, ding, ding. I think he couldn’t hear it–the pitch is probably too high for his ears… I found it very distracting!

    I do respond to texts pretty quickly & I only answer phone calls if I know who they’re from! Before the smart phone, I used to call the person back to respond to the text if it was more than a one word answer. Now I don’t mind since I don’t have to type every single letter. I also dictate my response quite a bit.

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