Do I fear the phone because I’m a horrible Millenial? Is it my anxiety? Please don’t call with an answer.
When I was 12, I received my very own phone to keep in my bedroom. It was black and had speed dial. I’d spend hours on the phone every day during the summer, talking about The X-Files with my friend Eric. My friends Katie and Sindhu would call me with three-way calling and we’d plan fun adventures. I remember once being terribly disappointed when I called in to radio station 99X, only to find I’d just missed winning REM tickets.
I used the phone as a teen.
So when did my phone phobia start? I can pinpoint two instances that might be the cause. But it’s also possible I’ve come to despise my phone as my anxiety and mental health issues have become more manifest. That is to say, perhaps I’d have developed this phobia regardless. There’s no way to know for sure.
When I was 18, my father died on a Saturday afternoon. I called everyone I knew and no one was home. Leaving all those messages was horrible, repeating the same short message to various parents over and over (“Just have her call back as soon as she can, okay?”). That a bunch of teenagers were out on a Saturday is no surprise. At the time, few of us had cell phones (I didn’t have one). Most of my friends called me back as soon as they could. But that hurt.
When I was 20, I was involved in a dysfunctional long-distance relationship. After the issues finally became unbearable, I broke up with the guy. Ahhh, I think over Instant Messenger, I’m sorry to say. But that lead to a barrage of phone calls, day and night.
The phone was evil. What the phone made happen was evil.
I have certainly made my own life more difficult by not using the phone. I have no trouble speaking with people in person. And I can be goaded into using the phone when it will help someone else.
As I count the rings, though, I whisper an anxiety-ridden prayer: “Please be voicemail please be voicemail please be voicemail.”
It’s not that I simply hate making phone calls. I hate answering the phone, too. When my aunt called to tell me my mom had been taken to the hospital (for the last time), nearly a day had passed before I checked the voicemail and found out.
On the phone, I stumble over my words, I forget pieces of info, I have trouble modulating my voice (I feel). Oh sure, I write out what I’m going to say, I practice. I’ve discussed this issue with one therapist, but alas her advice was to, essentially, get over it.
While doing some Google research for this piece, I was surprised to see a variety of Australian websites commenting on this phenomenon. Plenty of my American friends share my dislike for the phone, but now I wonder if there’s something cultural at work. Maybe we should all move to Australia.
My phone phobia has certainly caused me problems, but I wonder if this is really a problem that needs to be solved. I can make doctor appointments and vet appointments online, I can order pizza online, and for most other things, I don’t mind speaking with someone in person. I bet society will reach a point where phone calls are not needed. What a glorious future.