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Tue, Nov. 19

Middle-aged Musings: When you and your phone are inseparable ...

Remember rotary dial phones and pocket-sized address books with everyone's phone numbers in it? Oh, and that really antiquated thing called the phone book?

Now, we keep important numbers stored in our pocket-sized phones, and if we're smart, on "the Cloud."

I don't know a single phone number by heart any longer. That realization hit me when my phone's battery died and my charger was at home. I needed to reach my husband and, oops, I didn't know his number. That's just silly ... and embarrassing.

I wrote his down in my day planner - I do still use one of those. I haven't been able to commit to putting my entire life on my phone. I have a friend who gets a laugh every time he sees me pull out my planner to schedule a lunch or something. His entire life, and I mean entire life, is on his phone. It alerts him with different sounds for each appointment or life event. He appears so "put together." I hate that about him.

My son sent out a group text on Sunday to everyone he cares about. "I'm giving up social media and going to learn to live my life rather than rely on Facebook as my information source. I have everyone's phone number and will text or call you off and on to check in, rather than post updates and wait to see yours."

He is 24 and this floored me because he has lately become very much a social media baby. I'm curious how long it will last. I'm also proud of him - it's hard to give up. My daughter on the other hand (on purpose) has the lowest-tech cell phone available and refuses to join Facebook.

A friend of mine posted on Facebook this weekend that she was resolving to turn off her phone when meeting friends for meals or visits.

My husband and I went out to eat the other night and we both pulled out our phones and fiddled with them while chatting with each other. The next meal, we put them away and talked. And talked. It was fun - well, up to the moment when he feigned death in the car on the way home because apparently I was still talking and it was too much . . . and he was driving! Sigh.

I realize we are all so connected to our phones, but I think I'm going to try to disconnect more when I'm not at work. I carry two phones, have two email accounts, a Twitter feed and two Facebook accounts - professional and personal, not to mention I'm responsible for my newspaper company's websites, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. It gets intense some days just to keep up.

On my day off last week, I tried to ignore my work email. I ended up with 167 emails to answer the next day, on top of the new ones rolling in. So, sometimes it's smart to keep up with the emails when I'm not in the office, right?

I do miss the "old" way sometimes.

I used to talk for hours on the phone with my girlfriends. Remember that long, forever-curling cord? The phone was in the hall and I'd sit cross-legged on the floor.

When I'd call my sister in Pennsylvania, she was still on a party line. That's where several homes would share a phone line. She had one old biddy neighbor who listened to all of her phone calls. Once the woman even broke in to tell me her opinion on something we were chatting about!

Over Christmas, I got a text from my 80-year-old aunt asking how we were and wishing us a happy holiday. I stared at that text a long time. Wow. Aunt Darlene texts? I wonder if my mom would have gotten into that? Her typos would have been too funny, I'm sure.

Probably the biggest problem I've found with all of our social media interactions is the misinterpretations. You miss those facial and vocal cues to sarcasm, brevity, anger. I find myself being offended by some texts or emails when the person never meant to convey what the message seemed to say. Then I feel petty and childish for assuming the worst. I'm working on that!

I read a lot about being a better manager of journalists (a special breed of worker). They know their stories are always better when they have face-to-face interviews. I always try to stop by desks and connect with the staff, but sometimes I catch myself sending emails out with a quick question rather than get my lazy butt out of the chair and walk around the corner.

My goal this year is to have less intimacy with my phones and email programs and to create more "people" time. We should all give it a try!

Until next time, Robin

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