It's no secret that cell phones have been the cause of some compulsive behaviors for many of us. I'm willing to bet I'm not the only one who reaches for the phone on their nightstand to check Twitter, Facebook, SMS and new emails first thing in the morning. And I'm not the only one who refreshes their Twitter feed endlessly before passing out each night either.
We all have managed to pick up on some bad habits along the way. Some choose to text message while driving, despite the serious risks. Others answer the phone during family time, such as at a family dinner or some other outing. And that's just scratching the surface. Cell phones enable us to do some terribly rude and unpleasant things, and most of us do them without even noticing.
Personally, I have the habit of always checking my phone, to the point where it's obsessive. If I feel it vibrating in my pocket, I have to look at it, immediately, else it begins working away at my nerves. Subconsciously, I will drift away mid-conversation and my attention will inadvertently switch from the conversation to my phone. And, as I explained before when talking about some terrible cell phone habits, I will avoid people I don't want to talk to by pulling my phone out and pretending to be busy.
But my phone doesn't have to vibrate or light up like a Christmas tree for me to check it. I pull it out of my pocket every few minutes, regardless. I suffer from phatom vibrations quite severely, but that's not what I'm talking about. I compulsively check my phone, no matter what, every few minutes.
Sometimes, though, there is nothing left to check, no notifications left to clear out, nothing left to keep me entertained or busy. No Twitter, no Facebook, no emails, no text messages. Nothing. No ringing. No vibrating. No new feeds to look through. Complete and utter silence, a void of all notifications and everything completely up to date.
And this only seems to happen at the worst times possible.
At home, alone, on a weekend, my phone goes completely silent for hours on end. (Trust me, it's eerie) It also seems to happen when I'm with a group of friends who all seems to have an endless flow of Facebook, Twitter notifications and new text messages. They're all off in their own individual worlds while my phone is like a ghost town. I'm aimlessly flicking through the home screens, opening different apps, refreshing, refreshing again (for good measure), closing apps and repeating. Pull down the notification shade, flick it back up, rinse, wash and repeat.
It's both ironic and intriguing. With a device that is constantly connected to the Internet from virtually anywhere in the world, you would think I would have an endless supply of content and entertainment at my fingertips. But not even that is enough to keep my attention anymore. I want more. Constant interaction. I expect it.
I compulsively checked my phone years ago, too. Ringing and vibrating or not, I would scramble to pull my phone from my pocket every few minutes. I would check it under the table at school and under the counter at work. And I would lay in bed until the wee hours of the morning checking for notifications. However, back then, if I didn't have any new notifications, I would tap the power button, put the phone down and move on.
Now I find myself staring into the hypnotizing display for my smartphone, expecting notifications, constantly wanting more. And if there's nothing there, I continue to stare, aimlessly flick through apps and home screens and refresh all of my feeds, waiting for something new to pop up.
Who knows, maybe it's time for another disconnect …
Do any of you suffer from the compulsive need to check notifications? If there aren't any there, do you refresh all your feeds, looking for something new to stare at? Or do you simply put your phone away and enjoy the world around you?