Phone Phobia

I have a smartphone that I love. Last Christmas, I betrayed my sister Elbereth at the last minute (we were planning to both get an iPhone4), and opted for a Nexus S. I morphed into an addict in no time at all; last week I forgot it one day, and found myself ridiculously anxious and unsettled. I spend far too much time on it, using various apps, playing games, reading my email, texting, checking Facebook, and so forth.

The only feature of the phone about which I am ambivalent is the fact that it’s a phone. Because I’m somewhat skittish of phones.

It’s not that I don’t talk on the phone, sometimes at great length. My family and some of my closest friends are scattered across the country. I’ve had phone conversations with sisters that literally lasted all night.

But I hate, hate calling people that I don’t know, or even don’t know well. If I have to call customer service for some reason, even knowing that the task will maybe take me all of five minutes, I’ll put it off for days. It feels like it requires a crazy amount of emotional energy. I can’t really explain it. I’m much more comfortable doing things in person. I don’t know if it’s because on the phone there are no visual cues?  Though I also like email, which doesn’t include visual or auditory cues. But it also doesn’t require the same amount of emotional energy.

I held out a while before getting a cell phone; when I finally broke down a few years ago, I was one of the last of my friends to do so. I thought the idea of being available all the time sounded like a nightmare. But a friend of mine who has similar phone issues told me that I’d like it, because you can turn them off. And she was right: I actually do find a cell phone less stressful than a landline. Also, texting is much easier than calling, especially when the need is just to convey small bits of information.

But sometimes I turn the phone off and forget to turn it back on. And when you don’t answer the phone, sometimes you have to call people back. It’s a terrible cycle.

So while I love my phone, I also kind of hope that they don’t exist in heaven. Blogs would be okay, though.


  1. I could have written this post! It’s nice to know I’m not the only phone hater. I agree that it’s the lack of body language that makes it stressful. (e-mail is fine because the lack of body language is mitigated by the additional time to compose a response.)

  2. You know, Lynnette, that betrayal still runs deep. I had to get an iPhone 4 all by my lonesome and I still haven’t found anyone to try Facetime with.

    That being said, I am exactly the same way (though I probably spend less time talking with my sisters on the phone). I purposely chose the smallest number of minutes for my phone plan because I know I will not use them. I hate having to call people and I also find myself putting off phone calls for weeks (or even months) just because I get so worked up before I make the call. Just this last week I finally worked myself up to making one phone call that I had to make due to a time sensitive issue and I quickly made two others that I had been putting off just to get them over with.

  3. It feels so great to hear about other people with phone phobia. Calling someone I don’t know, or don’t know really, really well gives me massive stress, too. I just moved into a new ward, and I live in fear that they are going to be “nice” and “help me meet new people” by making me a visiting teaching supervisor, which is what happens in every ward, and which is my own little hell.

    I will go far out of my way to talk to someone in person rather than on the phone, if I can manage it. In heaven, maybe we can transport anywhere instantly, which will make this much easier, and phones will be unnecessary.

  4. Social anxiety about phone calls here too. I have to gather tons of courage and momentum to get a phone call done. I procrastinate phone calls endlessly.

  5. My mom used to always urge me to make a phone call and tell me I’d have to get used to it because it was a part of life. Well, guess what? I now have no phone at all and I rather enjoy making people email me. Ha! That way you get around annoying small talk, you can answer on your own time, you can think more about what you’re going to say instead of making awkward attempts at conversation (though if you make an awkward comment in an email, it’s hard to take that thing back, but that’s why I have my GMail sent to delay sending so that I can take it back right after I’ve sent it), etc.

    There is the small problem of misinterpreting tones, but that’s so minuscule in comparison to the benefits, don’t you think?

  6. Texting is so great! I don’t have to call with voice! I can say just what I want and not make all the investment in a full phone call such as saying hello, telling who this is and why I’m calling, asking how the person is, winding it up when done and saying bye. Soooooo much effort, right?

    When someone calls me and I don’t answer, I always hope they won’t leave a voice mail. My friends don’t. They just expect that I will see that they called me and call them back. Or better yet, just talk online later on when we’re both on. Or text. For some reason all those things are so much easier than actual voice contact, which I think is going away eventually. It’s so much harder than just typing!

    I also have weird things that I can’t make myself do about paperwork and so on. My brother in law helps me with taxes every year which is the nicest thing ever! I hate taxes and when I have to do them myself I wait until the very last possible minute so as to minimize the agony. When he helps it’s no trouble at all. We agree on a time and I take all my stuff over and he uses his program to do them in about an hour. But somehow I can’t do them by myself without much agony, and usually at least one extension.

    Another thing I can’t do is write a check and put it in an envelope and mail it. Luckily I can write checks online now easily. That came along just in time. Because if I had to pay bills the old fashioned way by writing checks and putting them in envelopes and mailing them, they would never get paid.

  7. I hate phones. I call my husband all the time. On rare occasion when necessary my dad. My brothers only slightly less difficult than strangers. But we never really were a talky family. Plus there was the whole overprotecedness as a youth where if I answered the phone I had to lie about my parents not being there because the callers could be out to get me.

    Even so, taking calls seems to be a little bit easier. But since we got caller ID and voicemail, I rarely do unless I recognize the name/number and feel up for it. A call I am expecting, the doctors office, sometimes church members.

    I don’t have text, but I love email and IM so I imagine I would like it. I have a cell phone, but have seriously considered getting rid of it. Being a one car household SAHM with some social anxiety (perhaps a bit of agoraphobia in there) who tends to only get out with my husband anyway, the only time I seem to use it is when we happen to get separated at a store and he wants to find me.

  8. Tatiana – my phone voicemail asks people NOT to leave a message. I direct them to my home phone. I rarely listen to my messages on my home phone so I’m thinking I should just get rid of the voicemail entirely.

  9. This is amazing! I thought I was the only one!! In college, I would pay for the pizza if someone else would call. Calling a store to ask their hours? Torture! And, like ogdenmom I’m so, so much more scared of people on the phone than in person. I don’t think anyone who talks to me live would peg me as shy, but people who’ve only talked to me on the phone probably think I have a massive social anxiety disorder.

  10. But I use my smart phone to keep up on my blogging. We’ll need them in Heaven I am pretty sure.

  11. I’m totally in the same boat as you, Lynnette (and with everyone else who’s commented). I think I’m just very paranoid about how I’m coming across (although you might not know it from some of my blogging), and I hate not knowing when I’m on the phone with people I don’t know.

    Tangentially, calling people to make appointments has long been one of my least favorite parts of home teaching. I’m always happy to be assigned to people who don’t mind making appointment arrangements by email.

    And regarding calling stores, etc., for random information, like Kristine mentioned in #9, the rise of the web has been such a blessing in my life in this regard.

  12. My problem with the phone is that if someone talks quietly, or doesn’t annunciate a lot, I have real difficulty telling what they are saying. Something about the sound range on phones seems to leave me in the lurch. Most of those same things aren’t a problem face to face, but over the phone I just can’t tell what they’re saying. So of course I try to cover it by pretending I know what they’re saying, since I don’t want my side of the conversation to be a continual “What? What?? WHAT??!?!!!?!?”

  13. It’s good to know I’m at least in good company with my phobia–though I suppose I won’t be calling any of you to commiserate. 😉

    I was also going to mention that I have weird issues with voicemail. I have a really hard time listening to it–and again, an unfortunate tendency to ignore it. Then I worry that people might have called with time sensitive information. I told my siblings once that if someone called to tell me the world was ending, I’d never know. Then I had my sister Melyngoch call to leave me a test message (I was trying out Google Voice), and she called and left a message that the world was ending (and something about pie), and for some reason I couldn’t manage to delete it. Every time I checked my messages, there would be Melyngoch again, talking about pie in ominous tones.

    But actually, I love Google Voice, which transcribes the messages into text. Usually in a somewhat garbled way, but enough that I can get the gist of what was said without actually having to listen to the message. For some reason, that’s way less stressful to me.

    ogdenmom and Ziff, I think that might be the single most stressful part of home and visiting teaching–all the calling involved in setting up appointments. Yay for people who use email.

    zaissa, that’s a good point. I often read ZD on my phone, so it can’t be all bad.

    Elbereth, I have the same pattern–I’ll put off making calls and then do a bunch of them at once. It’s like once I’ve got the momentum, I figure I’d might as well keep going.

    And I hope that someday you’ll forgive me. Though I understand if it takes some time.

  14. I still haven’t forgiven you for switching to the Nexus, Lynnette.

    When I worked on film projects as an undergrad, I’d often be put in the position of having to call other students and ask if they could help out, and learned that if the call was in any way time sensitive or imperative, I could get past my phone phobia. I’m the same way about making personal phone calls – I keep putting them off, I think partly because I always imagine I’m probably interrupting or bothering the other person. (Or if it’s a company, it’s hardly worth the hassle to get through all the automated sections.) But if, for example, I’m recruiting for a project, and we need someone right now, I can use that excuse and understanding to mitigate any possibility I might be bothering or interrupting the other party.

  15. I don’t have a cell phone. No texting. The worst part is that when people call me on my home phone, they wrongly assume I know who they are and have their number stored in my phone in perpetuity. Younger people who have always used cell phones have a very different conception of phone manners that I have. (Or they may never have conceived of phone manners.)

  16. This is bizarre. I never could have guessed that so many of us shared the same reluctance. I haven’t had a landline for eight years, and the only time I’ve carried a cell was for a few months while my aunt was in the hospital, during which time one whole minute (a test call from a cousin to be sure I could figure out how to answer the thing — I had to ask a woman at the library reference desk to teach me how to turn it on!) was all the time I used. I didn’t like phones as a teen, either.

    Phones never bothered me a bit when I was a secretary doing someone else’s business. But doing my own business or social life by phone? No way!

  17. Ha! This is too fun to read. My phone “phobia” is closer to Jacob M.’s issue. I’ve had my hearing tested over and over because I have the hardest time understanding people on the phone. And then I saw this link and realized I just have an overactive McGurk effect! No wonder I hate talking on the phone!

    I also love text/email because of the increase response time point. I sound so much smarter when I can think about my responses and don’t feel pressured to fill in blank spots with small talk 🙂 (Or maybe I just feel smarter!)

  18. Wow, it’s fun to hear everyone’s experiences with this. It’s also making me wonder about the characteristics of bloggers–might we be a population prone to certain traits which would lead to phone dislike? (Ziff, I think you should do a study.)

    Ha, Rachel, I have to admit that I probably assume when I’m calling people (at least if I know them) that they know who I am from their caller ID. That’s a good reminder, that not everyone does.

    Ardis and Amalthea brought up a similar issue–is it easier to do this if it’s for work? I don’t have a ton of experience, but I’m guessing yes. I did a brief stint as a person who calls you and tries to get you to take surveys, and I hated it, but it wasn’t impossible. (I had way more fun when I switched to the data processing end of things.) Also, I wonder about RMs–I think Elbereth (?) once mentioned that going on a mission made making phone calls easier.

    I’ve also fascinated to learn from this thread that there are people who are managing to get by with no phone at all.


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