This past June was the first time I have gone to Europe with an iLeash (smart phone). It would have been better if I’d left it at home. Not because of cost, since my carrier is DeutscheTelekom, so there are no roaming or other fees aside from the usual data cap type stuff, and that includes calls from there to the US and vice versa. Although the wrong number that called from Pittsburg PA at 0200 German Daylight Time probably wondered what the h-ll happened, since I answered in German. No, it’s because of internet.
Having internet access was a bad idea, at least for me. Granted, it allowed me to free comments from moderation since WP failed to close comments like I told it to do. But I spent time on the ‘Net when I should have been reading, or watching more German news, or doing more map-work. It is an addiction, and one I am aware of, and that I really need to wean myself from. Usually going to Europe is good for that. But now I have the iLeash, and I was expected to have it on and to be available (i.e. answer texts and calls).
It is becoming difficult to be disconnected. Other people become irritated and a bit angry when I don’t answer texts or calls instantly. This does not include people who know my schedule and know I can’t get back to them until I’m done with Day Job for the day, but other people. “I texted you four hours ago!”
But I was at work and I have to turn my phone off when I’m at work.
“But its me, and this is important.”
No, it’s not. But it feels like it should be, because of instant communications. The pace has picked up, and it seems as if the urgency has increased as well. But which is more important? A text or cell-call, or face-to-face communications and discussions? I was taught that the live person in front of you gets priority, but that appears no longer to be true. The text, or ‘Net video, or phone call overrides actually talking to the clerk, or the waiter, or the person you are scheduled to meet with. Some people assume I can stop teaching class to reply to a call. No. Likewise when I’m translating something for someone, that takes priority over any text or call.
Why is the call more important than the live person? Especially if it is a purely social chat, like so many I’m forced to overhear. Is it because we have grown uncomfortable with live interactions and communications, uncertain how to handle people’s actions and reactions when they are there, looking at us, waiting for us to reply or to ask or to do? Is it because we have control over the phone and the text, we can bluff and pretend and hang up or put the phone away if we don’t want to deal with a situation anymore? Or because there are fewer layers of communication with phone and text, no reading body language, no coping with someone else’s unpredictable reaction? Or just selfishness, because our personal conversation is far more interesting and important than the person trying to help us shop for an item or pay for our coffee.
I can sort of understand people who fixate on the ‘Net and texting because they can’t read people and fear the uncontrollable world. I’m an introvert, I love to be in control of the situation, and appreciate the ability to hide. But I also know that the world is going to find me. And that spending my life head-down glued to a screen is a good way to get mugged, literally as well as metaphorically. I’d make a wonderful hermit right up to the point where I went off the deep end because of the lack of grounding human contact.
In all fairness, I am biased. I realized twenty years ago that I am very, very easily addicted to repetitive visual stimuli, like computer solitaire and Tetris™. I have to be wary of games and certain web-sites because I find myself becoming hooked. Strangely, I can’t do first-person games or anything with explosions because I get terrible head-aches and become queasy. It is probably related to my visual problems (astigmatism), but it does keep me away from 99.9% of on-line and stand-alone computer games. And anything with shaky-cam.
At the moment, depending on LibertyCon and Life, there are tentative plans for me to go with my folks to Germany next year. If I go, I think I’m going to get one of those pouches that blocks cell and ‘Net function and lock the iLeash in it aside from those times when I truly need to be available (like when they go one place, I go another, and we meet at a third.) Having the iLeash hurt my productivity and really cut down the pleasures of the trip. And I suspect, although I may just be Odd, that if you were to force everyone to down their phones and go without the ‘Net for a day or two, a goodly number of people might be rather relieved. And others would be quite surprised that the world does not end just because no one was texting or calling or hanging out on social media.
I’m not against the iLeash or the ‘Net per se. But I am greatly concerned by how people are reacting to them, and how they seem to get in the way of communication and social interaction as often as they make communication easier. What’s the solution? I don’t know.