I know how to do this one amazing magic trick where I completely disappear. I think it’s pretty impressive, but my friends might beg to differ because it often leads to texts like this (sorry Angel!):
All jokes aside – it’s a problem. Sometimes I just get too overwhelmed by the influx of information directed at me that I just…stop. I lose my ability to pay attention to my phone – or at least the aspects of it that warrant a direct response from me. This often means ignoring friends’ messages for far longer than I should. It’s never because I’m annoyed with them. I love talking to my friends, but on occasions where I go grocery shopping, commute home on the subway, have a drink with a friend…or any other activity that turns my attention away from my iPhone for more than 30 minutes and results in me being inundated with 65 text notifications and 10 work emails causes my brain to short circuit. The problem isn’t the time that I’m not looking at my phone, it’s being so absolutely overwhelmed with the notifications that I don’t even know how to begin responding. So I delay and then delay some more.
13 year old me is shitting herself right now – I used to get like one text a week because a) because I didn’t know anyone with a cell phone and b) I wasn’t necessarily in high demand as an 8th grader. I would have killed to be this “popular” – but it’s not popularity. I’m not avoiding fun social things. I’m avoiding adulthood and responsibilities. I’m avoiding my mom texting me asking if I’ve done my taxes, I’m ignoring the five new interview requests for my clients that will take me an hour each to coordinate. And as I ignore these things, I begin to feel guilty. When I think about them, I feel even more guilty.
It’s a spiral of guilt and stress that I can’t help but to internalize. I focus on it so deeply that I convince myself I’m a terrible human being who can’t give my friends the attention they deserve. I tell myself I’ll respond when I can actually sit down and have a conversation – which is usually at the end of a long day at work is right before I crawl into bed with my jeans and makeup still on, and hours after the original message was sent. At that point, a conversation is the last thing I want, and so begins the vicious cycle.
As an introvert, I also use “ghosting” as a coping mechanism for bad days. If I’m upset with something that happened at work or in a relationship, I usually much rather fix it with a joint, bath, and sleep than talking to someone about it. Most times, this just lasts a few hours, but if I’m really upset, this process can take days.
When it comes down to it, the knowledge that I’m completely ignoring all my friends becomes MORE stressful to me than the effort of the original response. I dig myself into a hole, and the feeling of being there is very much similar to the feeling I used to feel in college as I watched the clock tick into the night while procrastinating my homework. Watching the clock tick on and knowing I have messages to answer carries the same type of stress.
I’m working hard to find a solution to this problem – or just stop doing it. It’s easier said than done. Part of me wonders if this is just part of transitioning into adulthood and growing accustomed to being accountable – a journey I am certainly not finished with. Baby steps – tomorrow I will wake up and answers five text messages before I get into the shower.