An aspect of technology that I can relate to and would like to discuss is how it can cause stress and anxiety. There was a period of time in my life, which lasted from my senior year of high school through my sophomore year of college, when I literally depended on my phone. If it were dead or on low battery I would become extremely distressed and begin to feel panicky. My heart would be racing and I would feel like I had lost my connection to important people in my life. I remember when there would be power outages, the first thing I would think about was my cellphone dying and about how I just could not cope without it. Granted, my reasons for wanting access to my cellphone had to do with events that occurred in my life that caused me great stress and anxiety. My need for constant communication with certain people was not caused by the phone itself; rather it was caused by my anxiety in combination with the cellphone’s ability to contact people in a matter of seconds. Having this sort of access really fed into my discomfort. According to an article I found written by Derek Thompson, Sherry Turkle says, ‘“If something next to you is vibrating every couple of minutes, it makes it very difficult to be in that state. . . [of peace and quiet] .”’ Anxiety aside, this fact alone is very true and quite debilitating. Being constantly bombarded by others through a little handheld computer is enough to drive a person insane. It takes away any sense of privacy and alone time that is necessary for everyone to have. If one cannot be alone with oneself, with nothing but their own thoughts, how can one even have a sense of self? If every waking moment is filled up with other peoples’ thoughts, comments, opinions, messages, etc., where is there any room in your life for you?
There are many forums that can be found online where people are sharing how their cellphone causes them major anxiety, and I can totally to relate. On a certain forum, one person describes their experience: “In the past couple of years…I have started to get really panicky if someone doesn’t answer my text right away. Then as time ticks by, I get more and more anxious. I start to worry that something bad has happened, they don’t want to talk to me anymore (or ever again), I just have so many thoughts going through my head and no matter how hard I try to convince myself that they’re unrealistic, I can’t make them stop. If my brain rules one option out, it quickly goes to another one and sticks there, and this cycle continues.” This description perfectly describes how I used to feel. I remember I would send a message, I would watch to make sure the message actually got sent, and if more than two to three minutes went by without a response, my pulse would begin to speed up, my palms would begin to sweat, and I would feel hot all over my face. I was constantly in a state of panic over my phone, and it was extremely confusing and embarrassing. Countless times, I would have to excuse myself from class so that I could deal with this “situation” on my phone. In hindsight, this seems absolutely insane to me, but at the time, it was the most important thing in the world to me.
This dependency on my phone took a toll on my social interactions, as well. Just like I did in class, I often excused myself from social situations to make urgent phone calls because someone did not answer my text right away. What was even worse was if they did not answer my text or my calls. At that point, it felt to me as if I were in an emergency situation. I would immediately think the worst (i.e. that someone died, that there was an accident, that the person was blatantly ignoring me). Then, if I would have to return to a social situation or to a classroom, I would be totally preoccupied and unable to focus because I would still be thinking about my unsuccessful attempt to contact someone. This horrible cycle of cellphone anxiety destroyed any sense of peace that existed in my life.
Now, I am proud and relieved to say that I have overcome my issues with my phone and have a much healthier relationship with my phone and technology in general. I had to do a lot of introspection, soul searching, and reconnecting with myself in order to get over my fears. Now, I have a more detached relationship with my phone. If it rings, it rings. If it vibrates, it vibrates. I will pick it up and respond when I get around to it. However, I will not freak out if certain people do not answer right away. I have realized that people are busy and they will get back to me when they get back to me. Not only am I grateful that I have this attitude, but I know other people are grateful for it as well. To be constantly bombarded by frantic texts or calls from me is probably just as stressful and being the one making the calls/texts. The bottom line is, you have to be in control of the cellphone or the cellphone could easily control you.