Turn Your Damn Phone Off (a PSA from Old Man Craig)

Or at least… turn your damn notifications off.

Alright, I don’t think I’m that old yet, but I know for a fact that I am capable of delivering what can only be considered an exquisite old man rant.

Listen up! Pappy’s got somethin’ to say, and it just might change your life.

Have you ever gotten stuck next to someone painting their nails on an airplane?

Or some idiot about to eat a tuna sandwich?

Somebody passing gas? (That was me.)

What about those people so aloof (or inept) that they still have their phone’s keyboard noises set at full volume so that you — lucky human that you are — can listen to every text, type and click pound into the screen?

Have you ever been on a screen-sharing conference call with people who don’t turn off their notifications, guaranteeing that you know they’re not paying attention and that they have zero ideas about what’s actually going on?

Have you ever watched a grown ass man “work” on his computer with a screen so full of notifications about everything from how much his favorite sports team sucks to Twitter updates and Facebook likes to the next Nordstroms sale email…?

Oh, you haven’t?

That’s because the grown ass man isn’t working, because he can’t work, because he can’t see whatever he supposed to be working on anymore.

Those people aren’t productive people. How do I know that? Because one cannot focus with endless distractions, and if all of our stupid notifications are anything, they are certainly: endlessly distracting.

Also, lest you assume that I’m only screaming from atop my high-horse, I’ve been this person, too.

It’s an annoying person to be.

Certainly, you have friends (or are the friend) who can’t put their phone down during your entire meal together, or who can’t stop checking each and every inbox pushing alerts into your periphery.

I’m tired of it. It’s annoying, it wears me out because it makes me feel like I’m always on and it guarantees I get nothing done.

My friend Aaron works at Apple, so I asked him how to turn text and iMessage off on my phone. I hate the dinging. That damn text ding! takes me, you and everyone else away from whoever we’re spending our time with, or supposed to be focusing on.

As if that isn’t old man enough for you, I ranted at him, too.

I told him I want to go back to the days of an answering machine, where you had the option of returning people’s calls, but only when you got home, if and when you actually listened to their message. I wanted to get away from the expectation that I must respond to everything immediately.

That damn text ding! takes you and your focus away from whoever you’re spending time with, or supposed to be focusing on. Even if you just read the text and don’t respond, it takes your attention away from being present and gets you to think of the message and response.

A few minutes later, Aaron smiled and said he had it.

God graced this old man with an angel who knows how to turn text notifications off.

My messages are still there, but they don’t have a red number next to them on my home screen (in fact, I removed the iMessage app from my home screen altogether), and now I hear the sweet sound of silence instead of The Damn Ding!™.

My point?

We live in a world where Amazon delivers literally anything you can dream up that day.

We live in a world where everyone is connected on social — watching everyone else’s lives — at the expense of missing out on their own.

We live in a world where we both record all our moments and miss them at the exact same time in order to capture them someone else to watch on a screen when that person could be living their life, instead of envying (or laughing at) yours.

We live in a world where emojis and text messages have replaced phone calls (and God, I HATE emojis).

We live in a world where most people don’t even turn off their phones to sleep, and where people interact (tap, type, swipe, click) with those always on phones over 2,617 times per day.

These things are drugs, triggering dopamine spikes that hook us on endless loops of information overload, and between the internet (and every social media giant it hosts) and text-messaging, we can instantly gratify our incessant desires for more.

Want to talk to someone right away? Send a text. They’ll respond in a few seconds.

Want to look something up? Google it.

Want to see what your colleagues are up to? Linked In.

The addiction is effortless. Your brain says “seek,” gets rewarded when you “find,” and urges you to repeat.

So, Old Man Craig made some changes recently.

Here are a few of them:

  1. Call me if you want to talk.
  2. If it’s work-related, I’ll get to it when I am in front of a computer — working. Until then, The Damn Ding!™ is turned off.
  3. My daughter sorted my apps by color, which has proven to help me spend less time on my phone (everything is so hard to find now that I just give up instead).
  4. I moved everything that isn’t crucial away from my phone’s home screen, so when I turn it on, I’m not tempted to look at anything.
  5. I deleted the Facebook app from my phone, Twitter sucks (it bores me), and I enjoy Instagram… on the toilet.
  6. My family and I downloaded a private text messaging app that we only use between the four of us to communicate if and when we don’t want to talk.

I don’t have a home-phone line at my house. If I were a better old man, I would. Maybe that’s the next step in my own personal evolution. When I do get one, I’ll give you my number — you can leave me a message on my answering machine and wait God-knows-how-long for a response like we used to when I was a kid… walking to school, barefoot and backward through six feet of frozen rain and snow.

You do what you want with your own damn phones, but this is what I’ve done.

If you do anything, though, try something new (or old), because what we are doing with technology isn’t working.

With some combination of love and hate, sincerely,

Old Man Craig

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