Why I am not responding to your texts
I've been a Mac guy since 1988. My mom and dad graciously bought me the first iPhone the day of its release. Carolyn and Sam waited in a small line at the AT&T store in Monticello, Arkansas for mine. Since then, I've owned every iteration of the iPhone as well as several Powerbooks, iBooks, MacBooks, Macbook Pros, etc. I'm an early adopter tech geek.
However, I've begun a DLAE. (Digital Lifestyle Adjustment Experiment) I pronounce it "delay" (Because I can. I invented the acronym, as far as I know. And delay is an appropriate word for my digital life right now.) You can read about the first part of my DLAE here, where I exchanged my iPhone 5 for a 10 year old dumb phone.
I'd like to share two general reflections in this entry:
My observations on part 1
How I'm handling text messages now
Observations on Part 1 of the DLAE
I had a few moments of withdrawal over the weekend in Richmond. We were at a wedding that I performed. Carolyn (who graciously is also cutting back on her digital life) was looking at her iPhone and taking pictures. I found myself greedily looking over her shoulder, and a few times I held back from asking her in a moment of digital desperation to read me her Twitter timeline.
Overall, however, one thing I've noticed is the quietness. Usually when I'm waiting in line or have a still second, I'm checking email, Twitter, the news, weather or playing Dice with Buddies. No more. When I'm still, I have no input going on from a device in my hand. While I'm new at this processing, it feels a whole lot like.... 2003 (my first smartphone was a Palm Treo).
I am growing to like being undistracted by the trivial in moments of life that should remain quiet and reflective. I'm having ideas again. (It's hard to have random ideas - whether quirky, creative or brilliant - when you're filling every free mental moment with techno dribble.)
Another reflection is people's reactions to my DLAE. Within hours of posting my first entry, my website hits were way up. In person, people have responded to me weirdly. I've had a unanimously positive response from people, and most of them seem like thirsty people gazing across a desert at a watering hole. They look at my dumb phone with its T9 texting and seem to unconsciously drool over the whole concept. I did not begin the DLAE to be an example. I am not looking at people in judgement when they pull out their devices. On the contrary, I'm still having to convince myself at times that not having easy access to an incredible camera in my pocket is not going to ruin my social life.
More observations to come...
How I'm handling text messages
This is part 2 of my DLAE. I get a lot of text messages. In fact, in recent months, it's begun to dawn on me that I get text messages from people who really should be communicating their thoughts to me via email or in person. It concerns me when church members or friends text me a real-life problem issue in several paragraphs. Why in the world would they not just call me or email or set up a time to visit about their crisis?
On top of that, I get texts for things like
Requests for phone numbers
People telling me they're late for meetings and on their way
Questions about jobs
Funny comments or observations
And I've had entire conversations with people over text messaging. I'm not criticizing it, but the reality is that this all takes place on an electronic device in my hand rather than in the presence of a human being. Yes, I know, it's a medium, but here's what I'm doing:
I'm texting less.
Yes, part of that is because my dumb phone has T9 texting. It's a pain. (Although I do like having physical buttons to press so that I don't have to look down all the time to confirm what I'm pressing.) But the reality is that texting is an interruption to my train of thought.
I'm working away on a project, with immense creativity and productivity. Ding. Text message. I stop and look over at the phone. Typically, I respond. Sometimes the text message throws me for a loop. It's a reminder of something I need to take care of, or it's "urgent," and I'll feel guilty if I don't respond quickly (after all, they know I've seen it - especially on an iPhone which unhelpfully tells its sender that it's been delivered and whether it's been read or not).
Now, however, I'm intentionally letting my dumb phone chime or vibrate to its heart's content. I am choosing to look at text messages only once every few hours. Then I respond. If someone truly needs me, they have my phone number, don't they? Otherwise, texts are there for convenience, not urgency, in my opinion.
What's it like? I'm honestly still struggling at times with guilt. I think I've become a little like one of Pavlov's dogs (or Dwight and breath mints) in relation to the incessant chiming and buzzing of my phone. However, I'm beginning to feel freedom. I don't think - for me - that's too much of an exaggeration.
The idea behind strategic texting is simply to check in 3-4 times a day. People can expect to hear back from me - just not immediately in most cases.
A few notes
Before you think I'm a technological hermit, remember that I just bought an iPad Mini with 4G. I am not going dark. I am simply scheduling my digital lifestyle so that I'm not always "on." I am still Instagramming (though that's a challenge without the amazing iPhone camera), tweeting and advocating for Google+ instead of Facebook. (Although the Path app looks great these days too.) There are a couple of times a day that I play catch up with these streams - but they're times that I plan for that.
On the whole, the past few days with my DLAE have been ones that I don't regret at all. I'll keep you posted with more observations and also about part 3 of my DLAE involving email.