When I was a teenager, I distinctly remember spending hours on the phone. At some point I was lucky enough to have a phone in my bedroom, and I would sit on the floor, leaning back against the bed, twirling the cord around and around my fingers as my best friend Harriet and I talked for hours and hours about everything under the sun.
Later, as a single woman living in London, Saturday and Sunday mornings were spent lounging on a sofa drinking endless cups of coffee and smoking endless cigarettes, as I worked my way through my phone book, calling everyone I could think of to catch up, or make plans for the weekend.
When I moved to America with one baby and had to find a new circle of friends, we too would sit on the phone as our babies napped, making plans for playdates, excursions, and Girls’ Nights Out.
So why is it that I have now become so averse to the phone? If my cell phone rings, I almost never pick up. If the house phone rings – a rarity these days – I find my first reaction is irritation at the intrusion. People leave messages for me, and I see that they have left the message, but something in me can’t summon the willingness to listen to them. I occasionally let my cell phone messages build up to double digits.
I just changed the message on my cell phone to say “Please don’t leave me a message, I’m extremely unlikely to listen to it. If you need me, text me. That way there’s a 70/30 chance I’ll get back to you.”
Recently a friend asked me to speak at a charity event. I said yes, and then she kept calling me to ask questions. I would stare at my cell phone as her name flashed up on the screen, and think, what’s wrong with her? Why can’t she text like every other normal person? If I ever do actually call people back, as the phone rings I find myself starting to pray that it goes straight to voicemail.
When I’m in the car with my husband and we decide to, for example, see if a restaurant has a reservation that night, if he asks me to phone, I cringe in horror. I will dial, put it on speaker, and hold the phone to his mouth just so I don’t have to talk.
Most of my friends claim to hate the phone in a similar fashion. We all prefer to text. Even though I frequently state that despite technology meaning we have all grown increasingly isolated, as human beings we long for connection, I am still allergic to picking up the phone.
I recently read an article that posed the theory that the old fashioned phone, the one that cradled in your shoulder, felt good, was a tactile activity that engaged your face, ear, and lips, encouraged intimacy. It said that our new cell phones do none of the above, hence our growing reluctance to use it. I am thinking of testing the theory by buying an old fashioned phone for our landline to see if it makes a difference. In the meantime, if you want me, just text.
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