The #$%*&ing Telephone

13 January 2015

A musically attuned friend sent along a song by Niia, a “sensitive, complicated woman who makes sensitive, complicated music.” I half-hearted listened to his suggestion of the title track “Body,” but was intrigued enough to give it a full listen of her album, Generation Blue

It isn’t Monday, nor is this is a Music Monday post. Let’s just say, I dig Niia. Her “modern noir” genre accompanies my adoration of 90’s R&B hip-hop perfectly. This post is beyond a suggestion for you to give Niia a listen. It was one of her songs in particular that stood out amongst the rest called “Telephone“, and it’s been haunting me ever since.

Timing is everything, isn’t it? And that’s not hyperbole. Maybe Niia’s song wouldn’t have struck me so bluntly over the head if I wasn’t going through a little mobile device spell myself. My personal “telephone” struggle is paradoxical: I need it for work, sure, but if we’re being bravely honest here, I incessantly check, scroll and distract myself entirely way too much. You can understand can’t you? Maybe you’re waiting for someone to call, text, or email you back. Perhaps you’re in a relationship and you find yourselves both on the couch, glassy eyed, staring into your device. I’ve sat in both of those seats and it’s excruciating. As psychologist Sherry Turkle says, “What is so seductive about texting, about keeping that phone on, about that little red light on the phone, is you want to know who wants you.

Niia mourns the silence on the other end in her song:

“I love it when you text me first
love it a little too much
I’ve been sitting here impatiently, dear, waiting on a call from you.
said you’d call me when you got home.
well I guess you lied.”

If further proof was needed that I needed to put my freaking phone down, I coincidentally watched a Ted Talk given by author and psychologist Sherry Turkle, called “Connected but Alone.”Jumping off her recent book Alone Togethershe discussed her theory of being in constant digital communication and yet still feel very much alone.

It’s excruciating, the telephone game. Isn’t it? I had a friend who once described her iPhone as her travel companion and best friend. I scoffed, yet secretly understood. Have you ever purposefully tried to leave your phone at home? (or just forgotten it?) Studies show being separated from your device elevates heart rate, induces anxiety and impairs cognitive performance. Hopefully no one is in surgery right now with an iPhone-less surgeon.

Turkle goes on to describe the “Goldilocks Effect,” that people want to be connected all the time, but if and only if they can have each other at a distance, in amounts they can control.  

I’ve been struggling with this for quite sometime and doing my best to overcome the dependency. I’ve been meditating and practicing mindfulness. There’s even a little pink sticky-dot on my bedroom door reminding me to be mindful every time I embark on my day.

Here again, the paradox arrives. I’ve been using apps to help me unplug, too. It does seem slightly backwards, but I can already tell you they’re working. As Kevin Holesh, developer of the Moment app, says “there’s really nothing that I can do or any developer can do to make you use your iPhone less. It’s a choice that has to come from inside yourself.”

You may be thinking to yourself, you have it under control. If you don’t identify with this post at all, maybe you know someone who is just a little too distracted when you’re spending time with them. Send it on over as a casual introduction.

So here’s what I’ve been trying to do and the first is far harder than the second. For someone who is over analytical, with an always running, talking head, this next one is not easy. I’ve been practicing mindfulness meditation using the HeadSpace app. Regular mindfulness practice, through meditation, is an effective treatment for stress, worry, lack of focus, relationship problems, addictions and more. It leads to peace of mind and wellbeing, greater focus, creativity and better relationships.

Additionally (as of yesterday), I started using the Moment app, mentioned earlier, designed to help you monitor and, hopefully, lessen your phone use. You can even designate times like dinner and bedtime for your phone to shut off to ensure sacred places.  It tracks your daily usage and nudges you with a warning when you’ve been on your phone for too long. Yesterday, I clocked a whopping 150 minutes with 121 “pickups” with a goal of merely 90 minutes of daily use. (The average mobile consumer spends 2 hours and 57 minutes  on the phone per day.)

Welp- slightly over, wouldn’t you say? My name is Jessica, and I have a problem. I hear the first step is admitting, so there’s a start.

Coming full circle, Niia also held a Ted Talk about how she overcame her stage fright when realizing anyone can have a connection to her music. She says music is all about empathy, and when you hear your favorite artist or song with powerful lyrics, you think they are singing just for you. Just as I did when I heard her singing Telephone.

This wasn’t a New Years Resolution, more of an overall behavioral change to instill the balance I felt was necessary. I’ll keep you posted on my journey. Please let me know if you’ll be joining me.

Seemingly fitting featured image is by Roy Lichtenstein, titled “Cold Shoulder.”

Categories: Lifestyle, Music, women | 1 Comment

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