My favorite part of getting my hair done has always been the chance to sit quietly in the salon, reading magazines with absolutely no literary merit while I’m waiting for the color to set. I don’t have to talk to anyone; I don’t have to remember a word I’m reading; I can just sit and relax for a good forty minutes or so in an oasis of self-centered tranquility, with the added bonus of knowing that by the time I leave, my grey roots will be nothing more than a bad memory. Unless, of course, I forget to turn my cell phone off.
Because when I leave my phone on, someone is sure to call or text, or I’ll hear the familiar ding that lets me know I have a new email, and instead of having my peaceful “me time,” I find myself compulsively checking my phone to see just who wants me to deal with what. And, of course, answering those texts and emails, or making a mental note to return a call. (I refuse to be one of those people who holds loud, personal conversations on a cell phone in a public place.)
Similarly, almost every morning when I get up, no matter how much I’m rushing around to get out the door on time, I sit down in front of my computer and check my emails, my Facebook page and my blog page. I answer the emails, reply to or “like” comments on Facebook, and answer any comments on my blog. I’m not sure why I feel the need to do this at the start of my day, but it has become as much a part of my morning routine as the Diet Coke I drink every morning. Sometimes what I read on the computer screen makes me smile and starts my day off on a positive note, but other days I read about problems and issues that are very stressful, and I find myself irritated and crabby before I’ve even had breakfast.
I struggle to find a balance between the instant (and constant) connectedness that our technology provides and my need to have some personal space, or a chance to pay attention to what, or who, is right in front of me. I’m not going to lie, I like the way social media lets me communicate with old and faraway friends, and I get a kick out of seeing their photos and sharing memories. I value the way I can so easily get in contact with my someone when I need to (remember the old days, when we had to find a pay phone if we wanted to call someone when we were out and about?) My cell phone also makes me feel safer, since I know I can always call for help in an emergency.
But that doesn’t mean I want to be available to other people all the time. I don’t want someone calling or texting me when I’m out to dinner with my husband or friends, when I’m finally, after a long session at the Humane Society, sitting down to a very late lunch, or when I’m trying to concentrate on my writing. I don’t need to know instantly how many people liked my latest Facebook post, or even how many people have read my most recent blog post. And I hate the fact that I have to remind myself of that, each and every time I hear my phone ding, or notice that I have 12 unread emails on my computer.
Maybe it’s because I tend to be compulsive, or maybe it’s because I’m a worrier (I don’t want to ignore a true emergency), but I know that I have to figure out a better way to live with my digital connections. I have to find that balance between communicating with others and finding the time I need just to live my life in the here and now. I know that’s not going to happen over night, but I’m going to try to do better. I have a hair appointment this Tuesday morning, and the minute I sit down in the stylist’s chair, I’m turning my cell phone off. It’s not much, but it’s a start.