Techie Talk

Communication, a Telephonic Invasion

“You’re intruding on what’s mine and
You’re taking up my time
Don’t have the courage inside me
To tell you please let me be
-No Doubt, “Spiderwebs”

I’ve been working on unplugging for quite some time. Yes, I love my phone but I refuse to let it rule my world.

Over a year ago, I set about turning off all notifications on my phone. All of them. Well, save for one that reminds me I am worthy. This proves difficult because every time you download a new app, it wants to turn on new notifications. Additionally, I also removed the number counts on my email, voicemails, and text messages. Looking at my phone, there’s no way to know that anything new is happening. I actively have to open Messages, the phone, and my email to see if someone has tried to contact me.

Not only did I remove badges and banners from even my most frequently used apps, but I turned off text notifications and put my phone in DND 90% of the time. Yes, I do understand what a phone is for, but I needed to take control of my device and thus my own time.

I will admit, doing those things resulted in some people who were annoyed that I didn’t immediately respond to their text messages. The phone issue was less of an issue in that those who really needed to reach me would, wait for it, leave a message. I opened my phone “app” once an hour to make sure I hadn’t missed a call. I would pull my phone out of DND when I was expecting a call back from the doctor or another known call. Otherwise, Do Not Disturb saved my soul.

For years prior to that, I made my default ringtone a silent tone and only gave ringtones to people in my circle. This was the next step beyond that one as I still needed more control over how my phone interrupted my day. As an aside, certain ringtones and text alerts cause me to have extreme anxiety to this day based on who they were attached to and the feelings associated with that time in my life.

I still missed a few things but was mostly happy with how things were going. When I added in use of the Hiya app to alert me to scam and spam calls as well as spoofed numbers, things got exponentially better. Now I knew I didn’t need to call back that number on the list despite the fact that they called me eight times in a row. As a bonus, my phone never rang for these incessant telemarketing calls. Straight to voicemail it is!

I now don’t miss much. The big update of Apple iOS to 11 brought about a super great feature for your contacts. Prior to the update, you could put certain callers on your Favorites list. They would always ring through on DND when they called in a traditional voice call, but not for a Facetime call on the first iteration of this feature. Then they allowed you to add Facetime and even text to your favorites, but these were also sometimes hit and miss. I still relied on them to allow those I wanted to contact me, my husband’s fire department, and my sons’ schools to get ahold of me no matter what.

But now it’s even better.

The update gave us Emergency Bypass for any contact you so choose. This means your phone will alert you for phone, Facetime, and yes, even text should you so choose, each and every time. Even if you’re in DND. However, as a caveat, it will alert you even if your sound is off and/or turned all the way down. As such, you may want to pull those select contacts before you sit in an important meeting or go to catch a movie. Just remember to add them back when you finish up. Sure, it’s an extra step, but it works.

Here’s the thing: I love being able to connect with my people whenever I want. But that’s the kicker: Whenever I want. Both my husband and I are missing the days when you left the house and your phone stayed at home. I literally don’t need to answer every phone call and text in an immediate fashion. I am allowed to put my phone down and experience the world. In fact, I want to put my phone down and experience the world. I also want to model that for my children.

I recently went as far as removing the Facebook app from my phone. Listen, I enjoy Facebook. I like watching videos of my nephews. I like to check out local Events to find fun things to do with my family and friends. I enjoy a good meme. I even appreciate the sharing of information and ideas in a respectful manner. But last week? My anxiety was already sky high thanks to things which I cannot control. Facebook did nothing to improve the situation, and I have a pretty culled timeline thanks to unfollow and hide. The hate and vitriol were still so unnerving that I actually deactivated my account over the weekend just to catch a breather.

It was heavenly.

I reactivated on Monday and immediately removed the app from my phone. I also removed my quick link from the bookmark bar and logged out of the website on my computer browser. I now am not mindlessly clicking on Facebook on my phone or my computer. To access the social media site, I have to type it into the browser on either device and actively login. Yesterday I logged in twice, though I also shared a recipe from a website after we ate it but I didn’t actively access Facebook. (Really. It’s a good recipe which I switched to the Instant Pot. 40 minutes on high, if you’re wondering. You are welcome.)

It’s not that I don’t care about my family and friends. I do. Very much so. I also don’t purposefully avoid phone calls or text messages as a thumb to my nose, despite what my dad thinks about me never answering my phone. (To be fair, he almost only calls when I’m on the opposite side of the house from my phone and somehow not wearing my Apple Watch—which is another post in itself.) However, I believe my time is my own. I don’t want to be so overrun by everyone’s opinions and negativity. I don’t want to be held hostage by my phone, by someone else’s demands on my time.

I’ll answer my phone when I want. I’ll return calls when I have time to sit down and give the caller their due respect with my quiet attention. I’ll respond to texts when I can. And yes, I still like my Twitter and Instagram, but if they start to negatively affect my mental health, they’ll get the boot from my phone as well.

All of this is to say: If you call me and I don’t answer, it’s not you. It’s me.

Communication, a Telephonic Invasion: Or, Managing my Phone Usage

“Sorry I’m not home right now
I’m walking into spiderwebs
So leave a message
And I’ll call you back”
-No Doubt, again, obviously

Parenting Techie Talk

Stop Policing the Technology Consumption of Kids and Families

Stop Policing the Technology Consumption of Kids and Families

I see we’re still talking about screen addiction.

I feel like technology in the Twenty-Teens is the war on drugs of the 1980s. I’m waiting for the first PSA with an egg in a frying pan. “This is your brain on video games.” Or iPhones. Or tablets. Or whatever. Only the ages have shifted younger, placing a bigger blame on the parents. Because when your teenager decides to experiment with drugs, you can chalk it up to free will, rebellion, and sure, parents not knowing what their kids are doing. But when your ten-year-old is addicted to Minecraft, well mom, that’s all your fault.

I’m over it.

I say this as a mother of a family who limits screen time. We’re still using the No Technology Weekdays format we began using a couple of years ago, with a summer caveat that Thursday is included in the weekend. We’ve continued to use this method because it works for our sons. They feel as if they have freedom to choose; we know their freedom is still a bit limited due to our busy family life. In fact, they probably ended up with more screen time during the Winter of Doom than with the extra day in the summer. Between the pool and time with friends and all the things we do, they just don’t sit in front of screens all day long.

But that doesn’t work for all kids or all families. I’m not presenting our way as the only way.

I am suggesting, however, that we all chill a little bit.

“Back in my day, kids played outside, all day long.” Okay, fine. That’s cool. My kids love to play outside. I liked to be outside, but often carried a book with me to the nearest tree. Do you know if that girl over there is playing “one of those darn video games” or reading a book? You don’t.

Today’s children are presented with a large number of options. I’ve watched my kids choose outside time over technology, especially if other friends are involved or a fun game (like Badminton, new to our family since the 4th of July). I’ve also watched my kids use their technology time on the weekend to research things to do offline; how to draw Pokemon or Star Wars characters, requesting books from the library, using an app to find a star in the sky, to figure out what bug is crawling over their foot, to share a picture of their chickens. That last one is the most important one to me, as these kids are learning to forge connections already.

And yeah, they play games. Like their other game-loving friends, they can still carry on face-to-face conversations, eat food, and sleep at night.

So maybe when you read an article or see my kids on vacation (you know, a time with relaxed rules and general awesomeness) using technology, maybe you could look at the big picture. Maybe instead of asking me why my kids haven’t been outside all week with an accusatory tone, you could ask if they’re well. (No, they had strep, but thanks for asking.) Maybe instead of assuming the kiddo at sitting on a bench with an iPad at the playground is an addicted, lazy child, consider whether or not he’s using it to communicate or simply doing what he wants with his free time while a sibling plays.

Let’s quit policing the technology consumption of other kids, adults, and families. We’re not “junkies.” We’re connected to others and those connections matter. Our kids will grow up understanding life is bigger than just what’s inside their small towns by the connections they start to make at an early age than any previous generation. It’s my hope that understanding will help change our world for the better.