A Whole New World

The other day I was watching The Today Show while getting ready for work and one of the anchors mentioned that Apple is thinking about changing the voicemail system of the iPhone. Under the potential new system, the message would be transcribed and delivered via text message so that rather than listen to it, a recipient of a voice message would read it. I’m stating for the record that I’m opposed to this change and if it comes to fruition, I hope it’s something the customer can opt out of in favor of the “old school” way.

Although I would be fine with reading messages from restaurants/doctors calling to confirm a reservation/appointment etc., I like hearing the actual voices of the people close to my heart. Call me morbid (others do), but I save at least one voicemail from everyone I love because if God forbid something happens to them, I want to have their voices preserved. I save almost every single one of my mother’s messages and nearly had a nervous breakdown when my company switched phone systems because it meant I would lose the messages of my late best friend Alan. (Thankfully, I figured out a way to save them and therefore the sound of his voice). And also, what if someone is calling to deliver wonderful news—“I got engaged!”? Or on the flip side, bad news—“so and so is at the hospital.” Some messages should not be read!! A text does not replace the sound of someone’s voice and while sometimes it’s preferable that way, sometimes it’s not.

Anyway, the entire segment got me thinking about how reliant our society has become on reading things on our phone. I’m guilty of it myself, although I try very hard to keep my addiction in check. I got on the elevator this morning and the three people inside had their eyes glued to their phones and didn’t register my entrance. In fact, every single person who entered the elevator after me walked in while staring at her phone. And it disgusted me that at seven in the morning, these people were already wired in. What bothered me more was that my own phone was in my hand rather than in my purse because I had every intention of checking email/social media in the elevator and on my way to work too. I threw the phone in my purse and vowed not to look at it during my fifteen minute walk to work, even when I was stuck at a traffic light. I managed, but it took some effort and it really bothered me that I had difficulty going less than a half hour without checking my phone. I have to keep my phone in a different room at night while I’m watching television or else I will be tempted to check things every few minutes. I don’t even know to what “things” I’m referring, but one glance at my phone inevitably turns into my eyes glazing over and my mouth going slack as I get lost in the world of Facebook or Twitter and I’m not okay with it.

I also admit to being less than thrilled that many of my friends keep their phones out and check/respond to (non-urgent) messages when we’re out. I tend to follow the lead of whoever I’m with. I have some friends who are less attached to their phones and when I’m out with those people, I keep my phone in my purse and check it only when I go to the bathroom. But when I’m around other friends and their noses are deep in their phones, I find myself reaching for my phone too because “when in Rome.” My preference is to focus on the people I’m with when I’m with them and catch up with anyone who texted/emailed me during that time later. But as I look around, I’m clearly in the minority. I get peeking at your phone every so often, especially if you’re expecting a message, but is it really necessary to keep it out? For me, the answer is no. And what I find interesting is that it’s still (as far as I know) uncool to keep your phone out when on a date, so basically we are showing virtual strangers more consideration than we share our friends/family. I don’t hold it against my friends/family members. They are wonderful people who aren’t doing anything “wrong.” I just think most of us are  so accustomed to it that it’s not considered unusual when around familiar people; it’s just what we do now.

I am a Generation Xer. My generation is old enough to remember what the world was like without text messages and constant access to the Internet/social media but young enough to fully embrace and utilize these advances in technology. There are so many things I love about the modern world and, yes, the ability to text message and obtain answers to virtually everything through Google is amazing. I love binge-watching television and streaming my favorite shows. And I credit almost all of my book sales to the invention of the e-book. That being said, there’s a part of me who misses the way it used to be: When kids played outside instead of on their phones; when I had to wait to see if someone left me a message on my answering machine; when couples/friends/family focused on each other instead of whoever was texting their phones; when folks acknowledged each other in the elevator; when people didn’t walk into me on the street because they were too engrossed in their phones to watch where they were going; when single people couldn’t simply “swipe” their interest in someone based on a photo and had to actually put in some effort; and where there was accountability for blowing someone off and expectations of being treated like a human being by a potential partner. I’m afraid this world is just a bit too modern for my liking.

Unfortunately, technology is not going anywhere, I haven’t figured out how to time travel, and I cannot control/change the behavior of others. The best I can do is try to hold onto a little bit of the “old” me in this “new” world and remain true to myself. I try. It takes a great deal of effort since it’s easier to simply join the masses and things are just so convenient, but I don’t need to embrace every single one of these “conveniences” 100% of the time if I’m not comfortable with it.

Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog, click here: http://www.julievalerie.com/fiction-writers-blog-hop-aug-2015

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Comments

  1. I stopped hanging out with a friend because she always ignored me for her phone. When I called her out on how rude it was, she said I was being insensitive.
    I do think we rely too much on our phones, and I try not to take it out if I’m out with anyone, unless it’s to take group pictures. Reading voicemails would be convenient, but I’m with you on the whole keeping a voice message from loved ones. It’s sweet. I still have a voicemail from my best friend, where she sang Happy Birthday to me. It’s the little things.

    • I’m so sorry you lost a friend because of that. I like to listen to my happy birthday messages too and ones where someone says “I love you.” I’m corny/sentimental like that…

  2. annellewillard says:

    Totally agree with you on this post.
    1st I save messages. I wish we had the technology that we have now 15 years ago as I would still be able to hear my dad’s voice. I always have the hubs voice saved just from the line of work he is in. Yes, I am guilty to sending him to voicemail just so I can save it.
    2nd, I hate being at dinner and everyone around looking at messages, playing a game or whatever. When we go to dinner as a family, phones are put up so we can actually do that think they call talk.
    3rd… Please Apple don’t make me lose the connection of humane contact. I like hearing a voice on the other line.

    • Ha! I never thought of sending someone to voicemail to save his voice. Brilliant 🙂 Good for you for making no-phone time with your family. Especially with kids, it’s so difficult. I’ve seen it with my nieces/nephews.

  3. I love that you save voicemails. That is brilliant. I have to start. I hate that we are so reliant too. I am so guilty of it. If I’m home I can’t pass my phone without checking it. I try to leave it home or in my bag when I go out, but like you, if i am with a constant checker I follow their lead. It is sad how we can’t be five minutes without it…

  4. I can relate to your feelings. I love the good modern technology brings, but get frustrated by the overuse, especially when it disrupts relationships or puts folks at risk. (Texting/phone talking while driving breaks my heart.) I too have realized that staying authentic and providing a good example are the best moves.

  5. Agree 100%. And not because I’m perfect. I, too, am addicted to screens, and I’m never without my phone, which I knew would happen when I finally took the plunge and got a smartphone, years after everyone else I knew already had them. I’m still adamant about not looking at my phone while out with friends (except to make sure whoever’s with my kids isn’t trying to contact me), and I leave it in my purse in a different room when I’m with family, especially my mom. But I have a lot of room for improvement when it comes to having my nose glued to that screen when I’m alone in public or when I’m at home. I have never called someone out (other than my husband or oldest son) for choosing their phone over me in a conversation, although I’ve come close with friends–one in particular. I figure it’s not my place to be the manners police. If people don’t understand common courtesy by the time they’re grownups, it’s a lost cause. As for myself and my kids (and my husband), though, it IS my responsibility to keep it in check. I take that responsibility pretty seriously.

    • Good on you for keeping your family in check with the phone. If there are more moms like you, there might just be hope for the next generation. Yeah, my biggest issue is being able to have quiet alone time without looking at my phone hence why I keep it in a different room in the evenings as much as possible. If I can’t see it, I don’t miss it. But once I pick it up, by the time I put it down, an hour has passed.

  6. Mobile phones are an amazing invention, but it’s true that it’s really sad that everywhere you go people are looking down at their phones instead of at each other or just at the world going by… My husband gets so mad because I’m really hard to reach on my phone a lot of the time (battery flat, forget phone at home when I’m out, am in my office but phone in my bedroom or visa versa, am in my shower, outside etc etc) and I honestly don’t do it on purpose. I guess I just don’t feel the need to have my phone with me non stop and also, sometimes I just don’t want to be reachable! Sometimes I just don’t feel like talking on the phone, or reading/replying to text messages or whatever, so I just don’t bring my phone with me and make sure I can’t hear it if it beeps or rings (I make sure I get back to people if they do call or write afterwards though). At other times I am like everyone else and I am hooked to my screen as I correspond by Whatsapp with my family in Australia and sms my friends but I guess I like having the choice although it sometimes feels like we aren’t allowed not be reachable anymore – and that really annoys me.

    • Good for you in maintaining some control. I also feel like we are expected to be immediately available all of the time. Just because we technically “can” be, doesn’t mean we have to be or want to be. Sometimes I get a text and don’t feel like responding right away or just have too much on my plate, but because it “takes a second,” I’m expected to respond immediately. Very annoying. But I’m also guilty of wondering why someone isn’t responding to me faster.

      • 😀 It’s true when I need an urgent reply I tend to get annoyed that they don’t answer quicker!! But then if it’s really urgent, I just ring them! On Whatsapp I didn’t realise at first that you can tell when someone has read your message and got caught out for answering a day later – and getting the reply “why did you take so long to reply?” “just saw it this morning!” “no you didn’t, you read it yesterday!!” Luckily it was just my sister and she didn’t mind but I’m careful with that now 😀

  7. P.S. I also do the saving voicemail thing… I had saved one from my grandmother a few years back but then lost my phone a while after she died… I was so sad.

    • I don’t blame you. I’m working on making sure I don’t lose the text exchanges between me and my late friend before my phone dies. I already lost him, I can’t bear to lose that as well.

  8. paulinewiles says:

    I’m not actually that nimble with my phone and, for a long time, I had lousy cellphone coverage in the building where I work. So I am far less glued to it than others. And I, too, am old enough to remember, if you made arrangements to meet a friend at the mall, and she didn’t show up, you just stood there like a lemon. I’d love to see how the current generation would manage with social arrangements if we took their phones away.
    And yes, I’m a teeny bit superstitious about voicemails from my husband when he’s out and about. I do tend to save them until he’s home safely. I can well understand how last message(s) from someone you love would be a precious thing.

  9. A whole new world indeed. I’m a Gen Xer too (far end, no less) and while I love my technology, especially having a full “reference library” at my fingertips at all times, I am quite capable of not gluing my nose to my phone 24/7, unlike a lot of other people. My biggest jarring moment was when I was working up to enduring two long (three hours +) bus trips for a couple of school functions. I remembered the noise level on buses filled with elementary school kids, and I was dreading it. Nowadays? Virtual silence. Kids don’t talk/shout/squeal over the sound of the bus anymore; they’re on their phones or other game platforms and will MAYBE talk quietly with their heads together over a game. The weirdest experience was on the wi-fi equipped tour bus to Niagara Falls—the kids weren’t talking to one another face to face, but they were interacting via a networked Minecraft game. And that was when I knew I was officially OLD.

  10. Could not agree more. This technology thing is super duper changing the human race. On the one hand, I’m crazy grateful for the friendships I’ve made BECAUSE of technology (Beach Babes – you know who you are!). On the other hand, I do resent that “twitching” sensation in my neck if I’ve gone too long without “checking” the almighty phone. Who do I think is texting me? The Queen of England?!

    • I, too, am grateful for friendships made online, but it’s out of necessity since we live so far away. When we’re face-to-face, we talk to each other dierctly. The only instances I can recall us picking up our phones was to take selfies. We know how to do it right!

  11. I’m a swimming teacher and 99% of parents have their heads in their phone while little Johnny is having his lesson and all little Johnny wants is for them to watch him. It breaks my heart every week.

  12. This was a wonderful post, Meredith. I held off on getting a smart phone for quite some time after they became the rage, because I knew I would fall into the same trap. And I have. When I’m out to dinner with my family or having coffee with a friend, I make every effort not to check my phone. Though part of it is I feel I should be accessible for my kids in case they are contacting me for some reason, but even so, rarely is there an urgent message that can’t be addressed later.

    Yesterday my dad called me and I didn’t answer because it wasn’t a good time, and I had to do the same again when he called a couple hours later and I was picking up my daughter. I knew it wasn’t an emergency because I’d already listened to his voicemail and planned to call him once I got home, but he was already panicking because he couldn’t reach me in that short time. Isn’t it funny? What the heck did we do before cell phones? We actually lived in a world where we weren’t accessible 24/7! LOL.

    Oh, and I love that you save voicemails. That’s an excellent idea. ♥

    • It really is nuts how we all forgot how we lived in the “olden days” – I understand kids not knowing how to function without instant gratification, but it’s like we’ve all become so spoiled and even a bit unreasonable. But your father’s concern was cute. I’d probably panic about my mom if that happened. In fact, I’m pretty sure I have done just that!

  13. I hadn’t heard about the apple voice mail thing. I agree 100% with you. There are messages I just don’t ever intend to delete, like one from a lifelong friend and her daughter singing Happy Birthday to me last year. (How would that even translate into text.) Similarly, can you imagine not being able to hear the tone of someone’s voice in a message like “Call me as soon as you get this, it’s important.” That could be amazing or devastating news and I would want the cue. Here’s hoping we get to opt out.

    I also so agree about being a genXer who is generally grateful for technology (especially those ebooks, as you mentioned 🙂 ) but also wary of the in-person connections it seems to erode. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

    • I’m pretty sure there will an opt-out option. I can’t imagine they would remove the option to hear someone’s voice. What if someone is blind and can’t read texts? Will they have braille? Seriously. Thanks so much for commenting 🙂

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