Breaking Free From Text Messages

Breaking Free From Text Messages

A couple of years ago I wrote about slimming down my smartphone use by nixing data and utilizing Google Hangouts as my primary source of text messaging. Combined with leaving Facebook, these solutions helped free me significantly from the interruption and distraction a smartphone can bring.

Fast-forward to today, and, oddly enough, I find myself feeling just as tethered to my smartphone as I did when data was freely flowing and Facebook was my favorite friend. What happened?

One major blow to my boundaries was the installation of dozens of free wifi hotspots in public areas throughout my city. (Thanks, cable guys!) Before these dangling carrots were strewn throughout town, I was limited to using my home and business sources of wifi for texting and other data use. Now I can send and receive text messages at the local park and text alerts can pop up while I'm stopped at a traffic light. Yikes. Let the temptations begin.

Outside of city-wide wifi calling my name, I am my own worst enemy in this battle. I was sucked into the vortex, a moth flying straight into the flame - feeling the need to interrupt any moment in my day to immediately respond to texts. Additionally, I began using text-messaging as a replacement for social media. (I am truly sorry, friends.) Seriously. Do I need to interrupt your life to tell you I made pumpkin bread? No. Carry on, world.

I miss a phone on a wall with a cord. What happened to that life? The days when you drove to the grocery store and no one could reach you the entire 20 minutes that you were there? Shh. I think I hear Edith Bunker singing in the background.

I researched minimalist phones, phones for seniors, etc., etc., to help navigate my renewed frustration with technology. But before shelling out any cash for a new ball and chain, I thought I'd try 'dumbing down' my iPhone 5. Again. Take two. 

Here's what I did:

  • Google Hangouts App (my primary source of text messaging) - alerts completely turned off - no sounds, no badges, no vibrations. Nada.
  • iPhone Native Text Messaging - alerts partially turned off - no sounds, no lock screen (I did allow the app icon badge), no vibrations.
  • Entertainment (Audio Books, Music, etc.) - moved to an old iPhone 4. I can listen without interruption.
  • Phone Calls - Previously I kept my phone continually on silent/vibrate, but since I have manually suppressed all the other alerts I will now keep it on full sound. My aim is to use my phone as a phone. Crazy, right?!?! I set up a 'landing pad' in my home where I can charge my phone and connect it to a speaker to amplify the ring. This way I don't miss a genuinely important call while working in the kitchen or another part of the house.

I haven't decided if I will try to check messages at regular intervals throughout the day or just as opportunity allows. Only time will tell the severity of my illness. :) My Hangouts messages are also available on my laptop when I check email. 

The greatest hurdle to regaining what once used to be normal life is managing social expectation.

We've all felt it. We send a funny link and our friend hasn't responded for three hours. The shared moment of lol'ing is 'missed' when a text is delayed. But that's the root of this cancer. Expecting everyone in the world to give you face-to-face attention rates when you're merely tower-to-satellite-to-tower is absurd. We wouldn't let a living, breathing person interrupt us the way text messaging does. Seriously. If text messaging were a person, he/she would be considered the epitome of rude. And the epitome of selfish. When we expect immediate attention through texting, we are shouting to the world, "MY needs, which are coming to you via radio waves in the air, are infinitely more important than every warm-bodied persons' needs in your current physical presence." Wow. Those are important needs. But still not important enough for you to actually call someone. ;)

Text messaging allows us to be an interrupting jerk without feeling like one. We'd realize what psychos we've become if we actually called people to tell them the things we text them on the regular.

Let's stop the crazy. 

Stupid Responses to Suffering.

Stupid Responses to Suffering.