texting, feeling scattered, and musings on the current state of tech

October 5, 2017
As I mentioned recently, I’m reading Manoush Zomorodi’s Bored and Brilliant right now.  This comes on the heels of already being somewhat obsessed with curtailing my own phone usage and mindless social media time.  
One thing currently driving me up a wall is TEXTING, and what I feel has become out-of-hand use of this particular communication method.
Selected texts I got in the past 48 hours:
– A patient’s mom (happens to be in neighborhood and has #) texting me to tell me that she emailed me about a (non-urgent) prescription.  (It’s not like she emailed me and I did not respond; she texted me AT THE SAME TIME as emailing me)
– An acquaintance asking me about an appointment for their child — I am not sure how this person even got my number, as I did not give it out
– A text from a friend asking if I am worried about cell phone radiation and pregnancy (yes, there’s irony there 🙂 ).  
– A colleague in another discipline asking if I had time to talk (I did not, was seeing patients nonstop, and I had told her I was going to be very busy until Thurs or Friday during a prior conversation)
None of these people meant to annoy me.  I realize that.  (Although the first one kind of pisses me off).  But — in my opinion (and maybe I’m just . . . old?) — they all should have been emails.  Because in my mind, a text demands a relatively quick answer.  They are purposefully intrusive.  Apple’s lovely innovation of “read” alerts has not helped with this — and because I don’t like the discomfort of someone knowing I’ve seen a text but have not responded, I often leave them unread.
Which drives the “inbox-Zero” compulsive side of me crazy.
(Which I realize is my problem, but still).
Am I wrong?  Are we supposed to be treating our text messages as just another In Box to reply to at our leisure now?  Or does everyone actually expect an answer right away?  And if so, HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO FOCUS ON ANYTHING?  Or be present in life?
I ended up writing my friend an email (we had talked about my desire to text less before, so I emailed her this):

SO – I am really kind of obsessed with lessening my phone use.  I find it so intrusive – like I am not present in life [when I am on my phone all the time].   I find that constantly responding to things all day makes me crazy and anxious which kind of makes sense b/c I have so many inputs at work and at home I honestly can’t take anymore after that! 

It’s not that I don’t want social connections – I just can’t have it bleeding into work day, into family time, etc. I realize I may sound crazy and radical in this day and age, but I just want to go back to 1997 when it wasn’t a thing to respond to a buzzing phone every 3 minutes.   

I thought she might be mad, but she sent me back a rather heartening response: 

I actually really agree with you and I feel guilty all the time for how often I am texting, surfing Facebook, surfing instagram, googling things on Safari etc. on my phone.  I am less worried about radiation  than like you say, my own sanity.  I don’t find it makes me ANXIOUS per se, I just feel like I have serious ADD and am not present in life.  {Husband} yells at me all the time.

Anyway, I think this is a very interesting topic worthy of further study and thought, and something I want to delve into even more as I hone my own habits in the digital age.  I was just thinking about how incredibly different things have become in just the past 5-6 years, and it makes sense that perhaps etiquette just hasn’t had a chance to evolve.

Things I do that are working for me:
– Not being on Facebook – happily off since Feb 2016
– Using the Moment app and keeping phone ‘screen’ use to under 60 min/day.  I’d also love to add more completely screen-free weekend days.
– Using email, not texting, to make plans with friends/fam
– Keeping notifications OFF for WhatsApp (I am in a kindergarten parent group for A’s class but quickly realized I did NOT want the notifications going off all day!)
– Keeping notifications off for almost everything, actually
– Trying to get friends that text frequently to switch to email or phone
– Put select people on do not disturb (esp those who tend to text me after I’ve gone to bed, ugh!)

Things I still need to figure out:
– How to keep professional contacts from frequently texting (just don’t respond right away to non-urgent requests?  Respond to a text via email?)
– How to avoid getting interrupted frequently when I am working on something important — I’d love to just put my phone away completely, but feel I have to have it out in case there is a family or work-related emergency

I welcome your thoughts on this topic – and I think it would make a fascinating podcast episode.

As I’ve mentioned, I love the Moment iOS app – allows for tracking of all screen time + # of pickups
You can also EXCLUDE apps you don’t want to count, like Google Maps or your podcast or music player app, for example.

Apparently there are 2 Android alternatives – BreakFree and Quality Time that are similar!