In my house growing up, my parents had an “important phone numbers” nail on the cabinet near the home phone. It had the obvious emergency phone numbers as well as the phone numbers of family, friends, and places that we called often. If we needed to call someone who was not on that list, we knew that we would find the phone book when we opened the left door of our buffet. We relied on that phone book, and at the time I thought it was one of the most brilliant inventions ever created. Sure, we had dial up internet, but I wasn’t allowed to use that until I was a teenager. Even then, I was limited to only fifteen minutes a day. Oh, how times have changed.
I vaguely remember getting our most recent phone book. I know it’s sitting in the back of one of our kitchen drawers, but I have never actually opened the book. I was curious about why we still even get phone books – to me it seems like a waste of paper. Out of curiosity, I did what almost everyone does when they have a question – I pulled out my cell phone and looked it up. I don’t remember the full details of the answer, only that the ads in the phone book still help companies get more money. It’s always about money isn’t it?
I don’t need to search Google (even though I just did to justify my assumption) to know that majority of Americans avoid the yellow pages and go straight to the internet to find the phone number to their local pizza place – unless you’re like me and have their number saved in your cell phone contacts. Not to mention the pizza parlor knows you by name and has your regular order memorized. (I have no shame.) Some places even let you avoid the phone call all together, and you can just order online. ANYWHOZ, my point is that I can’t recall the last time I opened a phone book, especially to use to white pages.
I moved to my current house back in September, and while sorting through my seemingly piles of junk, I found a few letters from my childhood penpal. I decided to reach out to her, just to see how she’s doing and let her know I still think of her occasionally. How was I able to contact her? Facebook. Facebook allowed me to send her a message quickly and easily. It probably took me a total of fifteen minutes to find her, write a decent message, and send it. She received it immediately. In that short amount of time, we were reconnected.
By using Facebook, I avoided the chore of looking her up in the phone book (assuming she has a home phone and is even listed), the anxiety building up as I dialed the number listed, the pacing back and forth while the phone rings and rings, and the instantaneous panic that hits when someone picks up the phone. Assuming that I dialed the correct number, she was home, available to talk, and remembered me, I also would have been forced to maintain a continuous, most likely awkward conversation, all while making sure that I asked all of the expected “catching-up” questions and remember to use proper phone etiquette. On top of all that, I would strongly hope for no awkward silences – I tend to just say random and just plain weird things during awkward silences.
I could feel my heart rate slightly rise as I wrote that last paragraph. I realize that some people still use phone books on a regular basis, and I also understand that the above scenario will raise no concern to some readers. As someone with severe anxiety and panic disorder however, each and every detail of the phone book situation sounds like an absolute nightmare. To be honest, I’m not sure I would even be able to complete the entire task without having an anxiety attack.
Therefore, I stand with the people who choose to use the internet (whether that means Google, Facebook, or another website) to find whatever or whoever I am searching for. This bothers me. I’m not ashamed that I’m “taking the easy route” necessarily, but I am ashamed that so many of my relationships have become so impersonal, and that even the idea of making a phone call to a friend gives me such a huge amount of stress.
As hinted at earlier, using the phone growing up was never an issue. I had regular phone conversations with family and friends. During the summer in grade school, I would call my neighbor friend almost every day. When I was in middle school, I would fight with my high school sister over who got to use the phone first on nights and weekends. High school came along, and I was on the phone every day with my then boyfriend or other friends almost constantly. My mom gave me my first, basic cell phone at the age of sixteen. I had limited minutes and texting, so I rarely used it. Up until college, I relied heavily on my home phone and our phone book.
Okay, I’m starting to realize that my scattered thoughts have resulted in me touching on a lot of different topics surrounding the subject of the phone book and the internet (and a few other random issues as well). Here is when I am forced to wrap things up and focus on what my point was when I started this post.
I know that the vast majority of my friends rely heavily on Facebook to communicate with anyone and everyone. I watched the home phone become almost obsolete along with the phone book. Now I feel like I’m watching phone calls and even texts disappear as Facebook takes over as the easiest and most common form of communication. I’ve heard the expression “if you’re not on Facebook, you don’t really exist” multiple times. That is an extremely sad statement. The more I think about it, the more upset I become with myself for following the herd and allowing Facebook to become so ridiculously important in my daily life.
However, about a month ago, I decided to shorten the hours a day I used to spend on social media to a maximum of an hour a week. I started to focus more on living in the moment rather than distracting myself with other people’s lives. I made this decision on my own and solely for the purpose to better myself and my life. I began to realize that while I love being able to connect with long distance friends and relatives and seeing those I care about progress in their lives, I needed to concentrate on my life. Don’t get me wrong, I have no intention of deleting my Facebook account – I recognize that it is still a great way to keep in touch with people who may not be as involved in your life as they used to be. However, I am content with the choice I made to cut back on the time I spent stalking other people’s lives.
This past month has been the best month yet this year. I have a higher overall sense of happiness, and I have been able to focus more on the good in my life rather than solely the bad. Sometimes you need to be selfish, and for me, now is one of those times. I need to use all the motivation that I have to work on myself so that I can improve my mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health.
My biggest fear about backing away from social media was losing touch with people and being excluded from social events. The opposite has happened. I’ve gotten closer to my best friends and family members and have been more social than usual by forcing myself to reach out to people via the phone. I didn’t realize how much I missed that personal connection that the phone book once gave me, but then I enabled Facebook to slowly take that away from me. Not anymore.
I am a person that needs emotional intimacy in any type of relationship, and that is something that Facebook just cannot offer. I fear what the future holds if the social media continues to grow and consume our time and minds. I am determined to continue making an effort to keep the personal connection active with my frientds and family, and although it’s simply my opinion, I urge you to do the same. Let’s keep ourselves emotionally attached to each other, even if that seems frightening. No one should face this world alone, and everyone should have someone to be there – actually BE there for them.
Everyone matters, regardless of how many Facebook friends you have or how many followers you have on Instagram and Twitter or how many likes you receive on any of your posts. No deserves to be or feel alone, and I do believe that social media has made countless people feel this way. I know I am one of those people.
I would just like to end with some lyrics from the song “Disappear” from the musical Dear Evan Hansen, “No one deserves to be forgotten. No one deserves to fade away. No one should come and go, and have no one know he was ever even here. No one deserves to disappear… No one should flicker out or have any doubt that it matters that they are here. No one deserves to disappear.”