As I’ve been working on a couple short stories based on prompts I’ve been given by friends, I think my mind has also been reflecting back on a lot of the posts I’ve written in the past several days. Specifically, I’ve been pondering the effect technology has on our relationships in this day and age, since so many of us (myself included) practically treat our phones as an extension of our bodies at this point.
At the same time, I’ve been trying to organize my thoughts and divert more energy to these short stories so I can actually get them done (beside the fact that I haven’t written fiction in quite a while and those creative muscles are still a little stiff), but going through my old archives, I discovered this piece talking about relationships and technology that I had written several months ago but for some reason or another had just never put up anywhere. Its style is a little different and a bit harsher than some of my more recent pieces, but I think it’s still relevant, and I definitely still resonate with the original point behind it as well.
Side note: The next couple days are going to be packed, so I’m really hoping to churn out those short stories in a timely manner, but I suppose we’ll see.
how we use our phones now
It’s 2016, and I think Americans have developed a new fear, one that honestly makes me a little sad. In the age of smartphones, it seems like people have become afraid of using them. Yes, we have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even Pokemon Go only a tap away, but no one really seems to use their phone for its original purpose anymore. Phone calls have become scary. Besides, why would you actually call someone if you could text, dm, WhatsApp, tweet, or Snapchat them anyway? Or at least that seems to be the mentality of a lot of people today.
Perhaps that’s part of the reason for the immense gravity we seem to give phone calls now. You just don’t call people anymore. Phone calls are reserved for urgent or important things: job interviews, college admissions, dentist or doctor’s appointments, or accidents or tragedies. It’s true that phone calls are probably appropriate for those things, but why aren’t they considered to be for things of lesser severity anymore? Why does your phone actually ringing suddenly imply that something major must’ve happened to warrant it?
I, for one, don’t really like this new attitude regarding phone calls that much of the population has adopted, but I do understand it. Phone calls aren’t convenient, at least not in the sense that many people understand the word convenient today. Texting and messaging give you the freedom to respond at your leisure and take your time in composing your response. (I’m sure we’ve all heard the stories or at least the Tumblr posts about girl squads writing text responses as a group.) Phone calls are the complete opposite. They’re immediate and on the spot. You don’t get unlimited amounts of time and you don’t get to rehearse what you’re going to say before you actually say it. Oh, and trying to get out of something by pretending you didn’t get the message or didn’t see the notification isn’t really an option in that case either. And then of course there’s the layer that the tone of your voice and actually speaking add to your conversation. The stress of it all has apparently become too much for some, who have sworn off talking on the phone and will only respond (or perhaps not really respond) to text messages and other forms of communication.
But why? What ever happened to calling just to hear the other person’s voice? What ever happened to endless conversations late at night? What ever happened to racking up a crazy phone bill because of going over your minutes instead of going over your data? Why does calling just to talk suddenly seem like such a foreign concept? Why does dialing someone’s number to make plans suddenly make you seem too impatient? And is it even possible to get back to a place where making a phone call might be considered a normal thing to do again? Or is this how we use phones now?
People keep saying that they want more intimacy or deeper connections with other people, but maybe this is part of the epidemic. We mask ourselves with screens and use our thumbs to say things that we would never say in person. All of a sudden it’s so easy to let toxic words flow from your fingertips because you’ll never see the other person’s face, while at the same time, it’s too hard to confess your love to someone standing in front of them because you don’t have a text bubble to hide behind. To me, that’s messed up. Spoken words give meaning and spoken words give life. Just think about the difference between saying “I love you” or “I’m sorry” and typing those same words. There’s a big difference in the difficulty level, whether people want to admit that fact or not.
So remember that the next time you reach for your phone. Obviously, texting and other kinds of messaging have their place in this world, but I don’t think that’s every place. There’s just something so unique and so special about hearing someone’s voice as opposed to seeing a block of text with their name attached to it. That might be the way that we use phones now, but it doesn’t have to be the way we use them tomorrow. So, dial someone’s number next time instead of pulling up their message thread. It might just change the way you use your phone.