By Colby Eaton | firstname.lastname@example.org
My communication tool has become my scapegoat from real communication.
So, sorry if I don’t acknowledge you when I see you around campus or even say, “Hey, how are you doing?”
Instead, I will have my phone out and my head will be down while hoping I don’t run into anyone or anything in the process of avoiding you. I am actually pretending I don’t see you and hoping not to make eye contact with you. That way I can avoid small talk and any awkward conversation. I think you are a nice person, but face-to-face talking is a real doozy for me.
A survey conducted by Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that 1-in-3 teenagers and young adults send out 80-plus text messages a day. I am not proud of this, but I may be one of those people. We have more text conversations than we do face-to-face. It’s sad, but I’m still attached to my phone. The number of text messages sent per user increased by nearly 50 percent nationwide last year, according to the CTIA, the wireless industry association.
When talking to our parents, we choose to actually call them. Not a surprise, it makes sense. But with our peers, we prefer texting. Why? I actually get anxious when I see someone other than my parents calling my phone. Is that normal? Why are we afraid to talk to people?
My phone is my safety blanket and does most of my talking for me. It has gotten me out of many uncomfortable situations. But maybe they were only uncomfortable because I have never chosen to face them.
Well, I finally decided to face them. So I put my phone in my pocket, on silent, so I wouldn’t be as tempted to look at it and avoid talking to people.
Once I put the phone down, I started to notice something rather interesting. I am not the only one hiding behind my phone. Now that I am looking up, there are people all around me doing exactly what I was doing. They are avoiding the eyes of others and the conversations they aren’t comfortable with having. What would it be like if we didn’t have our phones?
When walking from building to building I was forced to look up at the people I know and don’t know. I made small talk with many people I somewhat know and smiled at people I have never met. I couldn’t avoid eye contact without looking like I was … you know … avoiding eye contact. I ended up talking, out loud, more than usual and found myself not to be so bad at it.
I even ended up talking to Flagler President Abare and didn’t sound as terrified as I thought I would. My voice didn’t shake and the stuttering did not prevail as much as it usually does.
I also went to a guest speaker in the Student Center. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of getting there early and was the first person. The people hosting the event were there. Faculty members! I reached for my phone, but then stopped myself. “Colby, just talk to them,” I told myself. “You are never going to get anywhere if you don’t talk to people that matter.”
So, I went over, introduced myself and actually succeeded at the ever-so-awkward small talk. I even made them laugh. Colby … me! … came off as a funny, confident person. It felt awesome.
And then people my age, my peers, started showing up.
I got quiet and took my “blanket” out.
Why is it that my peers make me feel so intimidated and small? It didn’t help that they all came with a friend. I went there alone, but thankfully I had my phone. I was on it for a while, Facebooking and tweeting, but secretly yelling at myself.
This time I shut it off completely and talked to the girl in front of me. Her name was Tiffany and she was very nice and found out we had a class together before. The conversation ended a little awkwardly — there was no real ending. It was more like we had nothing left to talk about, so we just abruptly stopped. But it was still a success for me. It counts!
I will still use my phone occasionally to save myself from the uncomfortable and uneasy conversations with people I know and from those people that I really, really do not want to talk to. But I do make it a point to talk more. I’m working on it. Whenever I feel the nervous pit in my stomach, that’s when I know to tell my fingers to shut up, put my phone down and use my real words.
We all need to put the phones down and talk. Talk to people, let them influence your life and you influence theirs.
Conversing with people is just another challenge that we all have to face without the safety of our phones. You have to keep doing it even when you really don’t want to. Your phone can only carry your voice so much until you end up with no voice at all.