Why does a phone have to be everything?

Why does a phone have to be everything?
April 13, 2019 Maggie Lynch

cell phone with a love-hate meter in the middleI have a love-hate relationship with my phone.  Yes, I have a smart phone and there is a lot I love about it. I’m pretty sure I’m one of the few people among my family and friends who actually use my phone for talking to people. Even my eighty-six year old mother rarely calls anymore, unless it’s an emergency. Instead she texts. In fact she and my four other sisters do these group texts for an hour or more. Yes, they include me. No I don’t participate because I don’t check texts regularly. I still think my phone is primarily for talking to people.

Why I Love My Phone

Outside of actually talking to people I like, there are certain conveniences I do love about my smart phone. I LOVE my GPS on my phone. It is a lifesaver for someone with no natural sense of direction. I feel confident in going anywhere. Yes, I can read a map. Had to learn that long before GPS was available. But it is a pain having to pull over, stop, get out the map, figure out your next turns and then get back on the road. I love how my GPS talks to me and, if I miss a turn or an exit on the highway, quickly reroutes me the best way to still get going in the right direction. I also love how my GPS interfaces with apps that provide me good information like my walking app where I track how much walking exercise I get.

I also like the integration with my Google calendar where I track everything from appointments, to my writing schedule, release schedule, promo schedule, and fun things we do around town. It is so easy to make an appointment, no matter where I am, by simply looking at my calendar on my phone and knowing that both my schedule and my husbands schedule are immediately available and updated. That’s important when we have only one car between us. I no longer have the burden of carrying around a handwritten calendar. Nor do I have the problem of getting an appointment card or writing it down and having to wait until I get home to record it. It’s all immediate and fairly easy to navigate.

I enjoy the ability to Google something when I have a question. To have so much knowledge at my fingertips is remarkable. For example, sitting with a friend recently talking about the plausability of wormholes, I was able to immediately do a search and find many informative articles written by actual astronomers and cosmologists with the latest thinking by top physicists. My husband and I really enjoy having the immediately ability to look someone up when their name is mentioned on the news or when we are watching an older TV show or movie and can look up the actor immediately.

Oh, and the camera on my smart phone is better than the digital camera I bought several years ago. It is handy to take good pictures and not have to carry a separate camera.

I’m sure there are other reasons I love my phone but these are the ones I can honestly say I use almost every day.

Why I Hate My Phone

Pretty much everything else my phone does–which is everything my laptop does–I’d prefer NOT to have that capability. I do NOT love phones for keeping up with social media. The framework is too small. Typing on a phone is near impossible for me. Don’t even get me started on dictation and the strange things that get typed when I use it. I don’t like all the interruptions with alerts. In fact, I’ve turned them all off. When my bank, my doctor, my utility company suggest they send me everything via my phone I immediately say: “NO! Email is fine, but not to my phone.” Needless to say, all of those places continue to send me reminders that I can use my phone to look up my bill, pay bills, transfer money, access my account. No thank you!

And now even the primary use for my phone–actually talking to people–has been compromised. I estimate that ninety percent of the phone calls that come to me are now spam. Yes, I keep blocking them, but they use a new phone number or a new name after a while. Many of these spammers have hundreds of phone numbers. When you don’t pick up on one, they just dial you again with another. I now simply don’t answer unless I see the name of someone I know or business I’ve contacted show on the screen.

People who really know me rarely call anymore because we can be social online. In fact, I can count on one hand the actual number of REAL phone calls (from friends, family, or an appointment reminder) I get in a month.

Something I really can’t tolerate is people who are on the phone while we are together in person–at a meeting, at a scheduled lunch date, meeting up at a conference. Someone who is always checking their phone when we have set aside time to be together is disrespectful. They are sending me the signal that spending time with me is not at all a priority. If that is the case, I’d rather not plan the time then to be with them. We can communicate asynchronously via email or Facebook or Twitter.

I always feel really sad when I see a couple at a restaurant or a pub. They come in together holding hands. They sit down at the table then both get out their phones and don’t talk to each other. Even when the food comes, they don’t converse. They eat with one hand and text with the other. I hope that NEVER happens with me and my husband or anyone I care to spend time with.

Are you on social media? Do you enjoy staying connected with your fans? 

In spite of my love-hate relationship with my phone, I really DO love communicating with others. My mother now primarily communicates by text messaging and Facebook. My siblings and extended family are the same. I’ve learned that, for them, texting has replaced phone calls unless it’s an emergency. Facebook is for more general sharing. I still stay out of the text world or respond late. I still call people on the phone or anything rising to an urgent need. I want to hear the intimacy of their voice and to judge how critical it really is to solve right now.

Those who know me well, know that I am on social media regularly. I have accounts at Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, Vimeo, Goodreads, BookBub, Amazon Author, and Instagram (though Instagram is driving me crazy because it requires me to use my phone. Grrr.).  I enjoy being connected to family, friends, other writers, and most of all to my readers. I really DO enjoy learning about what my fans are reading, doing, and I feel honored when they share parts of their lives with me. However, as much as I love them, my communication with them is not as frequent as with friends and family. It can’t be. I can’t keep in contact with ten thousand or more people on a truly intimate level with any regularity. If I did I’d never have time to write another book.

Consequently, I have a schedule. I check emails when I get in my office in the morning. I allow 30 minutes for that. I scan for anything important, read and respond as needed. For things that look interesting but will take more time, I flag them to check at the end of my work day. This is usually things like business or technology articles, blog posts, or perhaps an event I might be interested in attending.

screenshot of scheduling several social media posts in BufferMy normal schedule doesn’t have me check social media until after I’ve stopped writing for the day. Then I put on my business or author communicator hat. This might be in early afternoon on somedays or late in the evening on others. And some days I just don’t get to social media. I follow the same process as I do with emails. I respond with likes and shares as it fits for me. And sometimes a comment if I feel my response is solicited or I have something helpful to share. For those posts that require more attention, (e.g., a link to an article or blog post; more than one image shared; asking a question that requires a longer response) I flag them for later consideration. I may get to them the same day or not for several days depending on how tight my schedule is.

For social media in general, I have rules about when and how I communicate. I strive to communicate daily by posting something that is meaningful to me. Sometimes that might just be a picture. Others a shared video or life experience. Sometimes it is just a question or a status post. About 50% of these posts are scheduled with software called Buffer. I do this at the beginning of the month for the entire month. These are what I call “regular themed posts.” For example, one month I decided to share thrifty tips for around the house once each week. I scheduled each of those posts in advance. I have a regular Caturday Saturday post. Those are also scheduled in advance. I take pictures of my cats all the time that I think are funny or cute. Then at the beginning of each month I schedule all four to five posts so I don’t have to think about it the rest of the month.

In between the posts along themes, are posts about my writing, new releases, or a topic that caught my eye and I want to share with others or post an opinion. Some of these are also scheduled in advanced, others are scheduled the night before when I’m doing my nightly social media catch up.

But I do ALL of this from the comfort of my keyboard with a nice big monitor attached to my laptop. I can type more quickly using ALL my fingers. I can see more clearly having a nice 21″ screen. I can take time once a day to check all my replies in different accounts and respond within an hour or so when I can see many posts at once on my big screen. It all fits and works so nicely sitting in my office with my computer, big screen, and a keyboard.

EXCEPT Instagram! Grrrr. I would love to  use Instagram more. I would love to be able to check things and reply and like and do all of those things. But Instagram insists I do this on my phone. And that’s just not going to happen. Consequently, my Instagram account is rarely used. I do check what other people have posted, but my posts? few and far between.

How do you use your phone? What is your preferred communication style? Are there things you refuse to do on your phone? Do you actually use it for talking to people? I’d love to hear your views, even it is verifying I’m a dinosaur. :)

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