Hissy Fit - July 2021 - Text Bombs: Don’t Get Burned Out

...because everyone needs one every once in awhile


July 2021
by Elizabeth Skenes Millen 

People have great expectations, except maybe when it comes to their children helping with the dishes. However, when it comes to answering a text message or a phone call, people expect urgency, immediacy…right now!

And, many get angry if they are not responded to within seconds.
Texting is out of control. People text at all hours with no regard to family time, business hours (and non-business hours), sleep or even school. Yes, many parents text their children throughout the school day. At what point did it become acceptable for moms to text their children during class? What is so important it can’t wait until after school?

What lesson is this teaching children? Why do people—
parents, students, teachers and school administrators—think this is OK?

I have received texts at all hours of the night—one to argue about politics, which I don’t even do. I had posted something on Facebook, that wasn’t political, and a “friend,” who hadn’t texted me as a friend in years, decided she needed to text me at midnight to politicize my Facebook post. Seriously? I’m sure you have gotten late night rogue texts, as well.

When I was young, there was a known rule of etiquette when it came to phone calls: Usually no one called anyone after 9:00 p.m. It was proper to wait until after 9:00 a.m. on Saturdays to make calls, and after noon (church) on Sundays. If someone contacted you near midnight, that meant someone was dead, or at the very least, something dreadfully bad had happened.

Etiquette is sadly becoming a way of the past as instant gratification and thinking only of one’s self is gaining ground. Texting has become an all-time impersonal way to bombard other’s lives— welcome or unwelcome. It’s like little communication bombs that can be lobbed your way at anytime—day or night—with no warning. And, we allow it. Why? Because almost everyone has disconnected their home phones, which not only means we all have to dial the area code now each time we dial because even 4-year-olds have their own telephone numbers, but we also use our smart phones for everything—alarm clock, stereo system, encyclopedia, etc.—which means we stay glued to it 24/7.

This is a pandemic of epic proportions. It is changing society at lightning speed. This is why when employers have a thought, no matter what time it may be, those thoughts come flying into your personal time as texts. Business hours and personal time has become blurred, and it’s hurting both family time and work productivity. Happy, rested employees make for the best employees. However, many of us work in burnout mode because we are constantly tied to that oh-so-smart cellphone—the modern day ball and chain.

Many employers no longer value—or even acknowledge—their employees’ time, even vacation time. I can’t tell you how many of my friends go on vacation and spend time on their cell phones every single day talking to someone back at the office, solving some issue, that given a little resourcefulness, could be solved without the poor schlep who is trying to vacation, who hasn’t had a true day off, including Sundays thanks to the cell phone, in years. It’s just wrong; it’s all gone too far!

Of course it was pre-cellphone days, but in my first job out of college at a mortgage company, I learned a valuable lesson from the owner of the company. She had a policy that if someone was on vacation, they were not to be contacted for any reason, whatsoever. While I didn’t have that power when I was knee-deep working in corporate America, I instated that policy on day one of owning my own business. I try to adhere to this even when I go on vacation. I love what I do and always want the magazines to be the best they can be. In order for that to happen, I can’t become burned out or resentful that it’s consuming my life. So the “leave-me-alone-I’m-on-vacation policy applies to us all!

Our unthoughtful, text-happy climate is also why ex-spouses continue the fight long after the divorce papers are signed. All they have to do when the mood hits is type a few hateful words and hit send. It’s easy when you don’t actually have to face someone or speak to them. It doesn’t matter when or where the recipient may be—Sunday lunch, a Rotary meeting, making an important presentation at work, a funeral—the hate comes flying in and changes the energy of the moment and possibly the entire day. If that crap is read in the middle of a workday, it’s a fact that both the psyche and productivity just got bombed.

Speaking of a bomb, let’s talk about customer service. I took my elderly mother to the doctor’s office and both the receptionist and the check-out clerk had their cell phones at the ready. While checking out, the clerk picked up her phone three times to look if she had unread texts. What she didn’t look at…was us—not even while speaking to us. I had to ask if she was speaking to me because she was looking at her phone. Who would know?

Employers are getting hosed by employee cell phone usage. Employees—and students—should have to put them up during work and school. People now think it is their “right” to have their cell phone at all times, and they have no idea how much it is downgrading our society and changing foundational values in the process. My opinion is that cell phone usage during work has far exceeded time used for smoke breaks and needs to stop.

Don’t you long for the days when your telephone hung on the wall in the kitchen and stayed there when you left the house? When you didn’t have to share your entire life, such as shopping, checking out, going to the beach, having a drink, exercise class, gardening, vacuuming, vacation, with a phone in one hand? Remember when you didn’t have to photograph everything and post it on social media? Remember when you didn’t have to take a pic of your child’s broken arm and post it before you got on your way to the hospital? Remember when you didn’t care if anyone back home saw you on a tropical beach having a piña colada? Remember when you went out with your friends and actually talked to them and didn’t all just stare at your phones? Remember when you could have conversations without searching though 10,000 pictures to find the one picture to prove a point?

Like Smokey Bear used to say, “Only you can prevent wildfires.” Well, only you can prevent your phone from controlling your life to the point of burn out. Set boundaries, let people know your phone etiquette policies and go phoneless once in a while! It will be scary at first, but soon you will feel oh-so-free.