We’ve teamed up with Transport for NSW to help you all Get Your Hand Off It while driving. Trust us, we love our smartphones as much as the next person, but your obsession can wait – is liking a meme worth someone’s life? No.
It’s the latter that I’d like to focus on today — responding to a message on your phone — because the expectation to reply is real in 2017 and really, it’s both physically and mentally dangerous. Whether it’s causing a car accident because you were a tool that looked at your phone while driving or causing sleep problems, added stress and anxiety because you never catch a break from your device’s expectations, it’s gotten to a point where they’re doing more harm than good.
Below is your psychological / behavioural explanation why this thing — known as “telepressure” is messing with your life in more ways than one.
IT’S AN IRL REPLACEMENT
It’s cooked, but some would say we communicate more on our devices than face-to-face, so its a case of social-life transference. For example, if someone spoke to you (to your face) and you just looked at ’em point-blank and didn’t respond, that’d be rude. So when you look at their message and simply ignore it for a while, in a lot of ways it’s deemed just as stroppy.
Pedro Diaz, Founder and CEO of the Mental Health Recovery Institute, tells PEDESTRIAN.TV:
“A text is not just a text. It’s communication from someone, and we feel similar to when we are asked a question in social conversations — a need to answer that question. We feel good. We get chemicals released — endorphins and dopamine — because we were able to answer that question.”
Interestingly, in a world of social media, “liking” a post is also – to a certain extent – responding. It’s like the technological replacement of a smile or laugh, if you will. You’ve acknowledged but don’t necessarily have anything to say.
IT’S NOT YOU, IT’S THEM
Larissa K. Barber, a Northern Illinois University psychology professor says that pressure to respond to texts “is most likely a manifestation of a very healthy — and somewhat universal — desire to develop and maintain healthy social relationships“.
Sounds innocent enough, except for that it’s also “a problematic psychological experience that can come from good intentions to maintain positive relationships with others.”
What heightens this? Some apps let us know when someone’s seen our message, making the burn a little greater when they don’t reply. Everyone wants to be well liked, you know, and when you’re someone who sees / hears something but doesn’t acknowledge it, you can feel as though you’re jeopardising your chances.
YOU’RE TOO AVAILABLE
We’ve always got our phones on us but this techy addiction has come around to bite us. If you get an email after hours? You’re kinda expected to have seen it. If you get a text during work hours? You’re kinda expected to have seen it. Quite the predicament, no?
“Now, people know that you likely have immediate access to their messages. Not answering seems more like a form of intentional disregard, which could make people anxious to respond more quickly,” explains Barber.
Unfortunately, being on call 24/7 can be problematic, with burnout, sleep problems and stress arising as a result. The less you use that bad boy, your social, mental and physical wellbeing will improve.
For example, if you’re always playing Candy Crush on your phone, and your pals know that, then they’ll be weirded out when you don’t respond to their texts. But if you’re one of those people who puts your phone on Do Not Disturb at night, or who turns your phone off while driving, your friends will expect less of you when it comes to responding.
What I’m really trying to say here though, is that no matter what it is, it can wait.
Is staying connected on your phone really worth feeling anxious, causing havoc in your social circles and having a grossly imbalanced life? I’ll give you a hint: the answer’s no.
Besides, waiting to write back can actually be way more beneficial to your life and its relationships, despite what you may think. What I’m talking about here is writing back to someone while you’re driving — and look, we know it’s a message hammered into us time and time again but heck, it’s important, so hammer I shall.
If you cause someone to end up in a wheelchair, hospital bed or worse because you were on your phone while driving, you’ll never forgive yourself, and neither will the person (and their families) in the other car.
It’s never worth it. If you don’t trust yourself, turn the thing off every time you get it the car. The expectation of keeping yourself, and others alive, is one far more severe than answering an annoying mate about 7pm fajitas.
Photo: Candidly Nicole.