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.
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