It’s Sunday night and I’ve just got back to the flat after ten days travelling. I sink onto the sofa with a glass of wine, trying to summon the energy to open up my suitcase, rifle through to find my beauty bag so I can shower before bed. I pick up my phone for the first time since midday, and there are unread WhatsApp’s from six of my friends, five unread texts, a missed call from my dad and so many Instagram DMs I’ll probably need to carve out a full hour tomorrow morning to deal with them. I should probably check in with my friends at least, read their messages, craft witty responses and make sure they’re all good too, but instead I turn my phone off and stow it under the coffee table til tomorrow. All those little red notification circles have made me feel a bit queasy.
The queasy feeling dissipates a little once my phone is safely tucked away, but the guilt creeps in instead. I love my friends, I do, they don’t deserve to be ignored. But honestly, the thought of sitting and replying to all those messages makes me feel a bit sick. I climb into bed still thinking about it, before giving up, running back to my phone and scanning through all the messages to make sure there’s nothing urgent. I fire off three quick apology texts to the longest standing messages, letting them know I’ll reply in the morning but knowing full well I won’t want to, before switching off my phone again. I get into bed and the guilt has been somewhat appeased but that queasy feeling of dread still lingers.
The truth of the matter is I hate my phone these days. I hate time spent on my phone, it makes me anxious and nervous and honestly just exhausted. I hate feeling the pressure to be constantly contactable, to put the ‘instant’ in instant messaging. I feel the pressure to be ‘a good friend’ by replying to every message I get straight away, to the point where I feel like I can never switch off.
It’s no big secret that being beholden to your phone increases anxiety, but more and more I’m noticing that the constant messaging and checking in is draining me. I feel like I never fully shut off properly, I’m always waiting for the next thing to deal with. And on the occasions I leave my phone at home or choose not to reply, I feel the guilt for not being available.
Now, my friends are great, I’m pretty sure if I turned around and said, hey, I really hate texting all the time, lets get a coffee date in for this month instead so we can have a proper catch up, they’d be more than fine with that. I’m fully aware the guilt and pressure is all coming from myself, and not from my pals, but I feel like our online culture has conditioned us to expect everything to be instant, we’re not used to waiting anymore! My pals know I’m terrible at replying to messages, but they probably don’t know is that I just don’t always want to chat.
Perhaps it’s just me being a batty old soul, but I find myself craving meaningful connection over constant communication. I need to shut out the constant noise of social media and instant messaging, swapping it for the odd phone call or in person catch up. I think the time is coming for me to step back from my phone and tell my pals, it’s not you it’s me, I need a little space from the constant conversation.
I’d do anything for my pals, and I’m always there when they need me, but I’m secure enough in the safety of my friendships to know I don’t need to chat to them 24/7 for us to stay close.
I’m sorry I’ve not replied to your text, but honestly? I don’t always want to be contactable. If you really need me, I’m here, but please let me spend less time staring at a little screen.