By Barton Goldsmith
Tribune News Service
Cellphone separation anxiety has become so common, and we don’t talk about it much (probably so we can keep glancing at our phones).
I was never attached to my phone until recently. As our remodeling project got going, I gave my phone number to all the workers and all the stores, and it has not stopped ringing since. So now my phone travels wherever I go.
If I go upstairs and forget the phone, I have to come back down to get it. I am always checking my pockets and car and nightstand. I always leave the ringer on, because I sometimes just put it someplace without thinking and I have to call myself to find it.
I used to keep my phone inside the nightstand, with the ringer off, but no longer. I’m not addicted to my phone, but I am dependent on it, and it’s just another thing I have to think about. Oh, how I long for the good old days of answering machines.
Have you ever noticed when a cellphone rings in a group of people, and most of them put their hands on their hips (like the old West) or open up their bags, frantically asking themselves, “Is it for me?” Really, we lived very well for centuries without having this device at out fingertips. But times have changed.
Tethered to the phone
We each have the choice to be tethered to our phone or not. Many people now have given up landlines and rely on their cellphones even more than before. Many have developed a sixth sense for incoming digital messages and would never choose to give up this kind of communication.
I don’t want to be that dependent on my phone. I have been to hotels where the concierge asked if I’d prefer my phone locked up at the front desk. That never seemed necessary before — when the calls that came in were fewer — and it seems kind of unthinkable now with this project going on.
Fortunately, my remodel will be over soon, and I will no longer have to answer phone calls at five-thirty in the morning. But now more than ever, I see the need to “unplug.”
Is this something you should think about too?
Ask yourself this question, when a text or email comes in or your phone rings, do you jump to read it or to answer the call? Unless you are waiting for an urgent call, this seems almost like an anxiety reaction, and you don’t need any more of that in your life. There’s got to be a better way.
If you want to take a break, try this. Let your phone just ring, and check who called later. Turn down the ringer volume. You don’t have to answer every single call. If it’s important, the person on the other end will leave a message.
Here’s another idea. Use your phone for business, not entertainment. If you use it as a toy, you will never be able to put it down. It’s wonderful that we have access to all the information in the world, and games galore, in the palm of our hands, but moderation is best in all things. And your phone will never replace talking face-to-face with a kind human being, not ever.
Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author of “The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time.” Follow his daily insights on Twitter at @BartonGoldsmith