Phoners vs Emailers

My name is Lisa and I’m an Emailer. A Texter. A DM-er. A PM-er. A Messenger-er. A Whatsapp-er. I’ll use anything to communicate with you but I won’t pick up the phone. Unless I really have to.

By and large my friends are the same. We exist in the same zone of communication. There is a tacit understanding that we don’t want to be lurched into a live conversation that will catch us off guard, unsure of how to respond, suddenly finding ourselves agreeing to things we don’t want to agree to, with no time to think and decide what to do.

It goes with the territory that we’re all into social media – posting messages on our newsfeeds for friends to respond to in their own time, or not, without the horror of the out-of-the-blue ‘I NEED THE ANSWER NOW’ voice call.

However, it has to be said right now that some of these friends do call me just for a catch-up chat now and then, and there is an undeniable sense of warmth and happiness that results from those calls. I always think, “I must do that more often,” but then don’t. Part of me thinks the other person is busy doing other stuff and it’s just rude to interrupt; part of me just can’t bring myself to do it. When someone says, “Just give me a call about that,” my brain turns that statement into “Just send me a text.” I can’t help it.

In a work setting it’s different. These days, my phone barely rings but if it does, it’s always one of about three or four people. I always know exactly who it will be, either from the time of day or whatever’s going on. I linger, guessing who it’s going to be, and I’m always right. My first thought is always, “Phoner. Why can’t they just email like normal people?” I’ve even set up my voicemail so it asks them to do just that. Nope – they carry on phoning, leaving message after message, while I’m sitting in meetings – they appear to do everything to avoid the written word.

I sometimes wonder if this is because they have a problem with the written word. Some Phoners find it hard to articulate things in writing (I’ve found), and I would say I’m better in writing than I am with the off-the-cuff spoken word. I wonder if this is about a clash in communication skills, more than anything.

Whilst to me, the Phoner appears to be a dying breed, day after day in London I’m astounded by the number of people walking along seemingly talking to themselves, talking and laughing into phone mics. They seem so happy to be sharing the intimate details of their life with everyone around them (I know, I can talk…) and it almost seems like an expression of arrogance to be able to talk about their cupcake fetish, or whatever, with all and sundry. They seem to enjoy catching my eye as they shout the lurid details into their phones.

I think I may well have been scarred for life by phones by a Toxic Person (see previous blog) who used to call me for a friendly chat, but then after a while, would start laying into me. Once she’d had a child, she always used to end up saying, “it’s alright for you, you don’t have to care for a kid,” or somesuch. I’d think, “it’s a choice, love, don’t take it out on me.” But she did. And it didn’t stop at that, suddenly everything I had and did was wrong – my husband, where I lived, my job, my looks. Nothing escaped.

I used to dread those calls and started having ready-made excuses to cut them short. When I picked up the phone, I’d announce straightaway that I could chat, but I was going out in 20 minutes. She started to say, “it’s alright for you, you’re always going out!” Yeah, love, to get away from you. Needless to say, she was my first proper bit of life laundry. I knew that my real friends would never make me feel bad about myself, but she went out of her way to. I just stopped answering altogether.

She did have one very weird habit, that is nothing to do with the subject of this blog post, but it’s always been a mystery to me. Whenever I visited her up north, she’d give me a lift to the train station. Every single time, she deliberately delayed the homeward lift so that I was panicking about getting the train. I realised she quite enjoyed making this happen so I stopped showing outward panic. I’d just sit there calmly as the clocked ticked by, as she ‘just’ did this and that to delay things further. Finally I resorted to giving her false train times. I’m seriously at a loss to know why she did that, and I do know other people that do it, but now I know how to handle it. It’s extremely weird and controlling.

Anyway – back to phones. I know other people are phone-avoiders because they’ve screened when I’ve called (even on Christmas Day) and then fabricated a really obvious excuse as to why they didn’t pick up. It’s ok! I get it! I don’t like phone calls either! When I was married, my husband used to light up a cigarette every time his mother was due to call (the same time every week). For a while I was duped into answering for him, then I realised what he was doing and just let it go to voicemail. He even used to ask me to phone in sick for him.

People are really phunny around phones and it’s not just me. When I’ve tweeted on this topic I’ve had a barrage of ‘me too!’ replies that have convinced me that it’s a dying art. Of course, there are situations where a phone call can do the work of a thousand emails but I’m fine with that. There’s a purpose to it. But what really makes me laugh in these scenarios is that it can take ten emails to arrange the phone call, in which time you could have solved the problem by email.

So… which one are you? A Phoner or a Emailer?

Written answers only, please.

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Interesting piece on phone-loathing:

http://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2014/oct/16/social-anxiety-mundane-terrifying-psychology-stress

Insta Me

Yesterday I went on my very first ‘Instameet’ – a group of photo-app Instagram enthusiasts met up to socialise and photograph the Tall Ships Festival in Greenwich. There were about 100 of us ‘IGers’, as we are known, and there are ‘meets’ like this all over the world, in most major cities. I loved it – I met some really great people who are as curious as me about the world, with the same ‘that could be a great Instagram’ view on life in London.

I’ve always been a bit of an Instagram purist – I take the ‘insta’ part of it very seriously and HAVE to post photos then and there, in the moment. It slightly irks me when other IGers post things a day or even a week later. The ‘insta’ element has gone as far as I’m concerned and these photos become ‘latergrams’. 

So it took me by surprise that the majority of IGers are using state-of-the-art digital cameras, a range of editing apps, and taking and storing up pictures to be edited and posted later. I posted my Tall Ships pictures as we walked round, all of them taken on my lil’ ol’ iPhone, within the Instagram app, with only a filter added here and there. When I ‘checked in’ to a particular location, I was actually standing there. 

There’s nothing inherently wrong with either way of working but it made me think about how I always want instant gratification and how difficult I find it to wait for things to happen. I like to live life in the moment, because very quickly the moment is gone.

This affects every facet of my life.

Some time ago, a work colleague coined the term, ‘Lisa Time.’ I’d go to the pub with her after work and complain about how long it took for people to do or respond to things. Whether it was a response to a work proposal or a text from a guy I liked, I’d moan to her about how long it all took. One night, she said, “Lisa – those people you think are slow are actually just running at normal speed. It is you who is going fast.” 

This was an epiphany for me. I started to think about all those times when I have found slowness so tiresome.

Commuting to work: quite apart from obvious delays on public transport, I often think that I could complete a day’s work by the time some people have moved out of the tube station. They seem to be rambling happily along, as though they’re on a relaxing holiday. In fact:

Holidays: when people take pictures of themselves ‘relaxing’ on holiday with a cocktail, I wince. Just the word ‘relaxing’ makes me cringe slightly. In these pictures, people are often staring soporifically at the camera, and you know they’re just going to be sitting there like that, without moving, for hours. I find it difficult to be so inactive, so anaesthetised from life – if I’m going to drink, then it comes with very lively conversation and possibly dancing. If people ask me what I do to ‘relax’, I say ‘I go for a run or walk to work.’ Yep, that’s my form of anaesthetic. I’ve actually had to train myself to do ‘sun-lounging’ on holiday, with regular breaks to do something relaxing. Like walking.

At the supermarket: my nemesis is the painfully slow self-checkout, with people moving items over the scanner at a glacial pace. I’m often tempted to just grab the stuff and do it for them. There you go, love. You just gained five minutes of extra time in your life. You’re welcome.

Buying stuff: instant gratification means I buy stuff now – clothes, holidays, drinks, books, food. When I want them (within reason). I don’t save for a rainy day. I know that freaks some people out, but I think I’ve seen too many lives fall apart in later life to wait for some mythical halcyon day to arrive when I can spend all my money. I want to enjoy it now.

Dating: the deliberately slow response to a message so that the receiver doesn’t think you’re too keen. I’ve given up on that. I just answer. I’m usually near or holding my phone when a message comes through so I just answer it. “That was quick!!” they always say. Yep, it is. Deal with it. 

Work emails: I operate a fast-response policy. Sometimes too hastily done, but I can’t bear the other person labouring under a false impression of something, if I have the correct answer to the query, or a correction to the content of the email. Over the years, I’ve caught sight of a few colleagues’ inboxes with hundreds of unread, unresponded-to emails. I can’t bear to look…

Facebook and Twitter: again, I operate my fast-response policy, if only to get rid of the annoying notification symbol from my wall. I want to answer or accept the invitation and move on. As with work emails, I sometimes see friends’ notifications numbering over 20 and shudder. If I get one – I see it, answer it if required, move on. 

Group activities: if I’m going out with a group of people to the pub or something, I always walk on ahead by myself. I can’t bear that moment of faffing around waiting for slowies, and then having to curb my pace as we walk to the venue, filling the time with small talk. I time my activities so I get there ‘just in time’, not before or after (well, maybe a little bit after, as slowies sometimes slow me down en route). It happened at yesterday’s Instameet – the moment after the initial group ‘meet’ in Greenwich saw me striding off on my own to find a space to take pictures. I caught up with a splinter group later, just as they were deciding to move on to the next location. Perfect.

Technology: my iPhone is actually too slow for me. If I accidentally open the wrong app, that split second where it opens and closes makes me want to yell with frustration. The same can be said for supermarket checkout scanners – I’ve put the item on the bagging area before it’s even recognised what it is. Keep up, Tesco, keep up.

I’m not sure if I’m cumulatively gaining extra time in my life by all this high-speed activity, but to me, it’s not high speed, it’s Lisa Time. It’s just the way I choose to live and I do find it difficult to witness people going at half pace. To me, they seem half alive, but maybe I am missing something.

I have tried to slow down in recent years and be kinder to myself, but still, my best moments are the spontaneous, fast-moving, ‘alive’ ones. Like the moment last night where I met one of the IGers from that morning and went drinking and dancing on the terrace outside the Royal Festival Hall. I was exhausted from the day but why would I go home and sleep when I could embrace the moment? It felt like the official Last Night of Summer, as we danced outside.

So today, I’m relaxing, after my Big Night. I’m writing this in bed at noon, with Sunday Brunch on my iPad next to me and espresso on tap. 

Ok.

Might go for a run in a bit…

 

Share and Share a ‘Like’

Ever since I’ve started this blog, people have contacted me, often secretly by direct message, to tell me how ‘brave’ I am for sharing such personal information in public.

I’m not brave, I’m a Sharer. I tell people stuff. Not stuff that is top-secret business stuff, but all the other stuff.

That’s partly why my friends were encouraging me to write this blog – I was forever regaling them in the pub with my stories of fortysomething dating or my theories on why women shove each other in clubs. And those stories and theories were always connected to a personal experience that I didn’t mind telling people about. Why the hell not? It gives the story more power and the theory more credence.

I think people are either Sharers or they’re not, and I tend to prefer the former. Social media has given my sharing a whole new level of exposure. No longer confined to the pub, I can share my thoughts and feelings, stories and theories, with a whole bunch of people who share too, although maybe not quite as much as me.

Within my group of Facebook friends there are those that share, and those that lurk. I’m connected to the Sharers on almost every form of social-media and we interact on every one. The Lurkers maintain that they’re ‘just not that bothered’ about looking at Facebook or Twitter but they’re there.

And boy, are they taking in everything you post.

They usually come up to me at parties and mutter darkly into my ear, “I’ve seen your blog…” like it’s a dirty secret.

“OH YEAH?” I shout, “DO YOU LIKE IT??” Then watch them flinch because I’ve outed their secret lurky behaviour in public.

Ha.

You see to the Lurkers, I am giving away my very core of power in nuggets of information about myself. This sort of person thinks that others will take those nuggets and somehow use them against me. They guard their own information fiercely, thinking that the moment they let their guard down, the vultures will move in and steal their nuggety strength.

Not so.

In my experience, people take the nuggets you are most fiercely guarding and use THOSE to bring you down. The minute you put everything out there, they’ve got nothing to take from you. You spoil their game. And boy do I love spoiling that sort of game.

So here’s what I’m doing. I’m laying all my nuggets out there, where they can be picked up by other people, examined and put back. Like exhibits in a case in a museum, most people will move on by without even stopping to read the descriptions. Some will stop and admire one or two or more of the nuggets, ask questions about where they came from, tell you they don’t like what they see, or marvel at what you’ve laid out and the rarity of the pieces.

And of course, the Lurkers will wait for everyone else to leave the room and secretly roll the nuggets around in their hands before tiptoeing out.

Maybe I’m taking the museum metaphor too far, but you get my drift.

My parents’ generation kept everything a secret. Growing up, I had to learn what you could say and what you couldn’t say to adults, and like many families, we even kept secrets from ourselves, refusing to say out loud those things that might rock an otherwise stable world. Maybe that’s why I enjoy saying things out loud now – the relief of getting the information out of my brain, and into the world.

I’m the same at work. People that have worked for and with me will know that I Say Things Out Loud and it’s become somewhat of a trademark. I call it the Honesty Policy, with its ‘Nowhere to Hide’ remit. I like information out there, in the open, where everyone can see it and I like to communicate it. It has really good results, once everyone gets used to it.

There is always a period of discomfort where the Lurkers are forced out into the open and made to discuss information with a team. Others take to it instantly, thankfully, or find themselves enjoying the openness and the calm it creates. I don’t do game-playing or politics – straightforward, direct, rational, open and honest are my key words.

So really, I’ve started to direct the Honesty Policy to my personal life, because for years, I wasn’t honest with myself or with other people about my thoughts or feelings. I kept them secret and they ate away at me. I’d blurt them out occasionally and then pack them away for another few years.

I’m being more honest with myself now, but I’m still not at the stage where I can go up to someone and say, “I really need to speak to you about that thing that you did because it upset me.” For me, that is the worst-ever scenario and I admire people who can do it enormously.

I genuinely think that I watch The Only Way is Essex and Made in Chelsea because both series consist entirely of people doing just that, continually taking each other to one side to ‘clear the air’. I think by watching it, I’m seeing if I could handle the confrontation. Nope – probably not. I’d just rehearse with a friend in the pub and then not actually do it.

Do other people actually do this stuff in real life? I’m not so sure. Perhaps that’s why both series are both so successful – they live out our Fantasy Confrontation Lives for us.

A few people have said to me that they don’t share because they think people wouldn’t be interested in the information. Well unless it says something about them, they won’t be. People are fascinated by personal information and opinions and I’ve had nearly 8,000 views so far that prove it.

It has been scary, posting some of what I’ve posted, and I’ve had moments in the middle of the night where I’ve inwardly screamed, “You told everyone that thing!!! THAT THING!!!” But then the next morning, I’ll invariably get a message from someone saying that they loved ‘that thing’ and want to read more.

So I carry on.

Because I can.

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http://www.forbes.com/fdc/welcome_mjx.shtml