Saturday, September 28, 2013

Adult pacifiers.....

I left my cell phone in my car today.....on purpose....when I visited my friend at her house and then while we went to lunch in a local restaurant.


And it wasn't an easy decision, which explains why I'm bringing it up.

When did it happen that we all decided, no matter what our age, that we are required to be available to one another every minute of every day? This isn't just a young(er) person's compulsion; it seems to span generations, which makes it an oddity. Gen Y (and X or C or whatever the latest age group is called) does it, but so do people my age, the Boomers who are flooding the Medicare rolls. As well as my own mother, who has me by another 20+ years.....she panics if both her cell phone and her house phone are not in working order all the time. What if someone needed/wanted to get in touch with her, for heaven's sake?  There are few things that all ends of the age spectrum agree on, right? This seems to be one of them, though.

WHEN did this happen?

Or more importantly, WHY did it happen? And what happens to us because of it?

All I know is that if my cell phone gets too far away from me...say, if I forget it at home for some reason....I turn that car around and go get it, even if I was making a quick run to the grocery store for milk. Which would take about 15 minutes, max. WHY do I feel that I must be available during that time, to whomever might call me? What if it's an emergency, after all? We seem to live on the edge all the time because of this, the edge of the "what if?" precipice.

One factor, I think, is that people on the other end of that phone get testy if they can't reach you whenever THEY want to reach out and touch. Hasn't that happened to you? "Where WERE you? Why didn't you answer your phone??! Etc, etc, etc." Like I have offended them in some critical way.

I can remember when (oh, no....I can't believe I just used that phrase) the only way to contact someone was by calling them on the phone that was hooked to the wall in their house. There was no answering machine (yes, I've been around that long!), so if it rang and rang and rang, you finally just hung up and thought, "Well, I'll have to try again later." And you did. If it was an emergency, you called someone else or a cab or rescue (there also wasn't any 911 back in the olden days, either) or stumbled out into the street until someone took pity on you and helped. But it got taken care of, one way or the other. No one expected anyone to be available all the time; it wasn't possible, so the expectation just wasn't there.

I try not to get too technical here in this gathering space, but I wondered what others say about this. I found a study about this constant connectivity, as well as other technology use: Heavy Technology Use Linked to Fatigue, Stress and Depression in Young Adults showed that heavy cell phone use showed an increase in sleep disorders in men and an increase in depressive symptoms in both men and women.

These are two points that support what I believe, and have experienced myself, along with the fact that apparently those who are constantly accessible via cell phones were the most likely to report mental health issues. How many nights lately have I woken up in the wee hours and then can't go back to sleep? Or never go to sleep at all? I have cycles of this, some of which I blame on the normal aging process, but maybe some of it has to do with this obsessive connection to technology. (And yes, some folks who know me will attest to the "mental health issues" thing, I bet.)

So, to go back where I started, I left my cell in my car when I visited my friend today. Actually, it wasn't quite that simple. You figured that out, right?

I opened the door, looked at the phone before I got out, stopped, thought What if someone needs me right away?, gave myself a mental shake: NO! Leave it there! They'll leave a message or call back!", and I finally escaped without it.Victory!

When I got back in the car: no message, no calls. See? All that angst for nothing.

And do you know what? My time with my friend was stress-less, because I didn't have to worry about anything anyone laid at my feet, unasked, while I was there. No drama, no gossip, no impositions on my time.The same while we went to a restaurant to have lunch: I left my cell phone in the car, which led to a wonderful time of sharing face-to-face with my friend, something we don't get to do often enough. Got back in the car: no messages, no calls. Heaven.....

Can we all wean ourselves from these instruments of stress, old and young alike, and get rid of these pacifiers of the modern age? Let's make a deal right here: I won't expect YOU to be available to me 24/7 and you won't expect it of me, either. Now go find someone you love (or would like to love) and spend some quality time.

Leave the cell phone in the car.

 The cell phone has become the adult's transitional object, 
replacing the toddler's teddy bear for comfort and a sense of belonging.
Margaret Heffernan
The cell phone has become the adult's transitional object, replacing the toddler's teddy bear for comfort and a sense of belonging.

The cell phone has become the adult's transitional object, replacing the toddler's teddy bear for comfort and a sense of belonging.

Do YOU think you could go 21 consecutive days without complaining? 
Take the journey with me: It only took me 125 days! 
 Nothing to Complain About: My 125-Day Journey to Become Complaint Free
The cell phone has become the adult's transitional object, replacing the toddler's teddy bear for comfort and a sense of belonging.


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