How Technology Has Made Us All Anxious
Do you remember the time when there were only landlines and pay phones? No Internet. No cell phone. No tracking in your pocket. If you didn’t hear from someone before you went out, you would have to retrieve the message later. From your clunky answering machine with a tape in it.
But while you were out, you couldn’t really be that anxious. Sure, you were waiting on a specific, potentially important phone call. But you knew that between the time you went to dinner and the time you got home, you could not be reached.
So you ate. You may have wondered. But you ate. And you probably enjoyed the moment and the food more than you do now. When you are checking every vibration and ping in your purse. Because you have an insatiable desire to do so.
It’s not just that. You’re f*cking anxious. All the time. And it’s technology that caused it.
First, it was beepers that gave us a glimpse into the future. A future where we couldn’t hide from a call. We couldn’t just sit and let the phone ring and pretend we weren’t there. Because the whole point of a beeper was to keep it on you.
And so the tracking began. And the anxiety.
When I worked for the government I was issued a beeper. I was always on-call. Some weekends all 48 hours. You can’t really ignore a beep from a cop on a murder scene who needs advice.
But this emergency product turned into anxiety inducing relationship melodrama too. On both sides. If I beeped you, I was waiting for a response. Sure, maybe you were driving (there were no cell phones yet), but I was waiting. So I was anxious. Without any factual basis. Because I reached out and I know you saw it. Even if you had no way to call.
And you beeped me. And I tried to look away. But I knew it was there. You put your phone number in. So I knew what number to call. But then we developed codes. 911 for an emergency. 411 when you needed information. A special number just for us. But you just put your phone number in. What did that mean? Anxiety. Was something wrong?
So they built cell phones to take away even more qualified and necessary mystery from our lives.
I remember how much I loved holding that old Motorola phone with a pull-up antenna to my ear while driving. It was so much better than my dad’s old car phone which weighed ten pounds and could never leave the car.
I was so independent.
And with my newly crowned freedom to communicate came rigid expectations of others. And of myself. I felt like I had to answer. Every call felt important. Especially in the beginning when you only gave a few people your celly.
The “I turned my ringer off” excuse got harder. I don’t even think my first mobile had that option. And if it did, it probably took a keystroke like *111333* just to do it.
Anxiety started to amplify with cell phones. Because of our own ridiculous expectations. And our own simple pleasures. We took it everywhere with us, so why wouldn’t we answer if someone called? Some did just to show off. Because they were an early adopter.
Loved my Motorola StarTAC.
We didn’t really need another point of contact. Most of us would have been much better served with our landlines. But we started calling in the car. Because we could now. And we tried to have a conversation while holding a flimsy flip phone to our ear with our shoulder.
But it wasn’t enough contact. We needed another mode to make ourselves feel anxious all the time. When someone didn’t respond right away.
At first it took so many keystrokes to send a text, it was barely worth it. It was more of a novelty. 44–444 = Hi. You could understand if someone didn’t want to take the time to respond.
But then it got better. And for those who used to sit by the phone waiting for someone to call, it became excruciating. Did they see my text? Are they ignoring me? Why aren’t they texting me back? Should I send another text? No. Yes. One more. I shouldn’t have sent that. Let me explain it to them.
Turns out they were at a funeral. All that anxiety just to get a pie in the face because not everyone can respond right away just because you want them to.
But we forget that. All the time. And make people feel bad for not responding in 0.001 seconds to our very important question about whether or not they like comforters or duvets better.
Even better, add a read time. Yup, they read your text. They are just choosing not to respond. Oh wait, there are the three little dots. They are typing! This is going to be great. Wait, where did the dots go? They stopped typing.
What does this mean now? Are they mad? Did I say something wrong? This is all about a f*cking duvet. This is what texting has done to us. You know it’s true. Don’t even play. You do this all the time.
And then came the giant. The one invention that would add more anxiety to the world than anything else. FOMO. Status anxiety. Why is their life so perfect? And why didn’t they accept my connection on LinkedIn? They liked the post on Facebook, but I think it really should have been a Love.
This is what we are spending our time thinking about. A lot of the time. If you don’t think it’s true, you just aren’t paying attention because you are busy tweeting. Social media has taken anxious to a level that may be unrecoverable.
Social media tightened the reigns on connection. And it opened the door to “connection.” Before social you couldn’t reach out to people you didn’t know unless a mutual contact put you in touch. Now you could find people. And try to become cyber-connected in real time to friends of friends.
It’s not even a slippery slope any longer. It’s a downhill slalom of epic proportion. Out of control and without bounds. And all of it creating more anxiety inside of us. For connection. For reaction. For response. For vindication. For collaboration. For discovery.
It’s too easy. And that’s the problem. We expect too much of others because of technology. It’s not fair. To any of us.
Just walk in the world. And look at what people are doing. At a baseball game, most people are looking at their phone more than the game. At a concert there are more phones in the air than lighters. We miss watching our kid dancing because we are so focused on taking the video to share on Instagram. This is modern connection.
FOMO = anxiety.
And it’s bullsh*t. And not good for us.
Technology has made us all anxious to some degree.
Because it’s ubiquitous. And omnipotent. We can’t imagine life without it.
But I think about a life without it all the time. For all the benefits and enjoyment technology has given me over the years, I constantly wonder if I would be happier if it never existed.
When I text someone, I want a response. And I want a quick response because I am unbusy. We rarely think of what the other person is doing. Or that they could be busy. Or maybe they just don’t stare at their phone all day because they are actually working. What the hell is wrong with us?
Allow people to enjoy their lives without the constant expectation of a return.
Does technology make you more or less likely to feel worry, nervousness, or unease?
I would argue that the real intention of social media is to cause addiction. So we have to keep coming back. And we keep coming back because we are uneasy, nervous or worried about something. And if we feel the anxiety caused by FOMO.
Sure, that’s on us because we should be able to control our fear of missing out on what Roger’s new baby looks like. Or what they named her. Or what Sally had for lunch. Or Bob’s new hypoallergenic hairless cat. We want to be a part of everything.
Because of technology.
But we shouldn’t be a part of everything. Honestly, we should learn to mind our f*cking business more. And stop cyberstalking all our friends (and enemies). Because while we are doing that, we are feeding the anxiety. And then it will spill over to other things. Real things.
Our human mind, soul and spirit are being corrupted by technology every day. Can anyone even argue with this anymore?