A week or two ago, while I was in a restaurant with the kids, I noticed a couple sitting at a near-by table. I was close enough to hear bits of their conversation and it seemed as if they were having an argument. Not long after they sat down, the woman's phone rang and she answered, cutting her partner off mid-sentence. He didn't seem to mind - heck, he seemed so accustomed to the intrusion that he barely seemed to notice. She was talking and laughing on the phone with whoever was on the other end and the second she ended the call, her tone changed back to disgruntled and annoyed as she resumed conversation with her partner. Over the next thirty or forty minutes, she took no less than four calls, and sent a number of texts. Her partner simply sat there waiting each time.
That experience reminded me of an experience of my own about a year ago when I was that guy sitting at a table with a woman who continued to take phone calls while she and I were having lunch together. I, too, sat by passively and waited (and waited), feeling less and less valued as our face time passed us by. Our conversation were fragments strewn between calls and texts and prefaced by "now, where were we." I'm sure my good-byes were tight-lipped because I was terribly annoyed and more than a little insecure by the time we parted ways.
What is that?? These instances do not even constitute an unusual occurrence anymore.
I hate it. As much as I love technology and continually reap its benefits, I also resent its constant presence and intrusion into our lives. Phones seem to be a classic example of this intrusion. They seem to have taken over relationship management.
Why do we assume that people should be available to us at any given moment of the day? Explain to me how instant access is always a good thing.
My experience last year resulted in my making a decision. Quite simply, I decided that I did not want technology to take over my life in that way. My cell phone became a tool for emergencies (and thankfully I've not had that emergency yet), occasionally for home message retrieval, and even more occasionally for some random call that I felt it necessary to make. You may well think that I live in the dark ages for taking this position, and that's ok. I consciously decided that my phone would not be used for the purpose of having instant access to everything/everyone, or for others to have instant access to me.
It took some getting used to because I was the woman who used to chat on the phone much of the time I was on the road - using my 'down' time to 'be productive.'
At home now, on my land line, I don't answer the phone during h/school hours; I don't answer the phone during meal times; and if I'm involved in conversation with one of my kids, I let the machine pick it up.
I know this bothers some people in my life, people who are accustomed to the instant availability that technology offers and who offer it to and expect it from the people in their lives. My own siblings don't like that they can't always access me immediately by phone, though they're also both reluctant to leave messages for some inexplicable reason. I get that my decision is annoying for some and I have become much better over the past year at promptly returning phone messages that are left for me. But I refuse to kowtow, as yet, to the societal pressure that assumes that whoever is on the other end of the line is more important than the person I'm face-to-face with.
I'm not anti cell phone. Far from it.
I have one and I occasionally use it. A few months back, when I had to replace my phone, I eyed lovingly those beautiful iphones that have been tempting me. I ended up not purchasing one, in part because they are ridiculously expensive, in part because I don't need so many options when I'm using my phone for such narrow purposes, and in large part because I knew that the awesomeness of one of those babies would challenge my decisions and thrust me right into the sphere of cell phone world domination.
I love that Geoff has a car phone because when he's on his long drive home I'm often getting dinner started and so we regularly have a chance to catch up on our days for five or even ten minutes. That's also the primary way I get to talk with my brother, when he calls from the road.
Though it doesn't impact me on a day-to-day basis, I also love that there are countries in the world whose rural communities have been transformed by use of cell phone technology, which provides access that simply wasn't available before. I was amazed in Ethiopia, for example, even in remote communities, by how many people carried cell phones; and I some time ago watched an online documentary about the amazing transformations that have taken place in other African countries where, for example, men and women are able to negotiate/barter/buy/sell their wares/livestock via access to this technology. Amazing.
I also get that my strategy is not for everyone, and that everyone needs to decide what works for them for personal and professional reasons. My use of a phone would surely change during working hours if I were employed outside the home. I'm not judging anyone else here; this is about the change I made in my life and how it's worked for me.
It has worked well for me. I've had a year to evaluate how my strategy is working and, on the balance of probabilities, I'm good with it. Really good with it, actually. It might sound silly to hear this, but my life seems a little more peaceful and somewhat less frantic having the phone turned off. For this Mom, and in this season of life, it's working.