It’s no wonder many introverts silence their phones or leave them permanently on Do Not Disturb mode.
I was incredibly lucky to grow up with family members who share my aversion to unexpected phone calls.
“Let’s schedule a time to talk,” my mother would tell me over text, and I would sigh with relief. This way, I could look forward to talking with my mom, but also avoid the dread that always comes with the surprise of a ringing phone.
While it’s no secret that 99.9 percent of introverts really dislike the phone, there’s more to it than awkward phone calls. While I am grateful for video calls and technology that have acted like a portal to the outside world during the pandemic, there are still several reasons why my phone will never replace a friendship.
6 Reasons Why the Phone is Not an Introvert’s Friend
1. It’s like being constantly interrupted.
The world of phone calls and texting was not created with introverts in mind. I’ll be nose deep in a book, or thinking about something important, and then ding!
Is that important? I’ll wonder. I’m pulled out of my inner world, my thoughts already fading. I’ll glance at the phone and… Oh… it’s just a meme from a group chat. OK, going back to what I was thinking about. Ahhhh, blissful. My head is such an interesting place. Except, ring! Ring! Ring! This time, it’s a call.
Do I have to answer this? I’ll think.
As an introvert, getting a phone call I wasn’t prepared for means that I suddenly have to slip on my “peopling” hat, and worse, slip out of whatever work I was doing or thought I was thinking. From the outside, we introverts may appear as if we are simply sitting at our desks, staring off into space, but I assure you, the cogs in my head are moving a million miles a minute, and getting interrupted from my personal, private thinking time can feel like my head has been stuck in mud.
Just like phone calls have been compared to someone teleporting into your life, they can feel like an unnecessary intrusion into my personal thinking sphere.
2. They give you no time to think in advance, which introverts prefer.
You mean you want me to make a decision right now? Unless you’re asking me whether or not I’d like a free lifetime supply of books delivered right to my door, I’m probably going to have to think about that for a minute. Otherwise, as a deep thinker, like many introverts, I need to think about my answer. And being a serious overthinker, I just… can’t… find… the… words I need to answer right now.
Words, like thoughts, are something to be fully contemplated. In fact, word retrieval, or finding the correct word to explain your thoughts, can be difficult and time-consuming for us introverts. But, remember, it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. On the contrary, it means you’re likely a deep thinker. Processing all the complex thoughts in your head and forming thoughtful, meaningful verbalizations just isn’t instantaneous, no matter what the fast-moving extroverted world might say.
3. They make you miss out on important visual cues and facial expressions.
“Oh, that’s nice,” I’ll say into the phone, for the millionth time. And yet my friend keeps right on talking. And talking. And talking… Why is it so difficult to politely end a call?
In a face-to-face conversation, I would be paying attention to so much more than just the sound of her voice. For example, is she scanning the room and picking at her fingernails? She’s probably nervous. Or she’s smiling and giggling — this is a lighthearted, fun conversation. Or maybe she’s staring straight at me, and it’s one of those deep and meaningful conversations that allows us to bond and really cement our friendship.
And none of that carries over the phone.
While many introverts do, of course, enjoy one-on-one conversations, the phone robs us of so many elements that we enjoy about these personal conversations with friends who “get” us. No facial expressions, no eye contact, no way to tell if the person on the other end of the line is actually giving half their focus to the TV rather than to our conversation. Introverts usually make great listeners, given how we process information deeply and are often highly attuned to the world around us. But listening over the phone, even when I’m talking to a close friend I usually enjoy speaking with, just isn’t that satisfying. When I can only hear a voice, it gets a lot harder to tell what someone actually means when they’re talking — and, consequently, harder for me to engage.
4. They take a distracting toll on your precious, limited energy.
What else, besides phone calls, can make my phone feel like a metal block that sucks away all of my energy?
Well, here I am typing this paragraph, when ping! I check — oh, nothing, just a notification asking me to check social media. Okay, I’ll write another sentence and ping! Ah, that’s a work email. Okay, I’ll respond. That will only take a second… done. I’m back. Alright, back to writing, when ping! A notification about social media again. Maybe I’ll take a minute to scroll… and scroll… and scroll…
A phone can contain endless rabbit holes, from social media to work-related emails to the endless vat of information out there on the internet. Some of this is good. But a whole lot of it is overwhelming.
While humans are learning machines — and we introverts love learning, reading, and researching in our downtime — there’s also a distracting downside to the endless stream of notifications that come with our phones. All of these distractions can make it hard for us to get any work done, and can pull us out of our own heads, making it hard to focus.
Research shows that even just having a smartphone in the same room as you can cause distraction and interfere with how people complete tasks. And for introverts, who need to recharge by being alone, these distractions can make it hard to fully get any rest and recovery when we finally do get a moment to ourselves.
5. Others expect you to be available 24/7, which encroaches on real-life relationships.
Here’s a scenario that’s likely happened to most of us. I psych myself up to hang out with a close friend. We’re having brunch, it’s nice and quiet, and ping! Her boyfriend texts her. And of course, she has to answer it. And then we go back to our conversation and our pancakes, and ping! I start to say something, but look up to find she’s scrolling through social media. Or making an actual phone call to another person. While we are having brunch.
Is there anything more frustrating than seeking genuine human connection from someone who can’t seem to want to talk to you for more than 25 seconds without scrolling or texting someone else? It’s a strange conundrum for introverts, who often do enjoy texting people, to feel somehow secondary to the phone in someone else’s hand.
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6. They cause social media overload, which causes you to feel lonely — even in a crowded room.
I remember a gathering with college friends in which everyone seemed to be chatting and mindlessly texting other people at the same time.
How do they do that, my brain wondered, already feeling a bit overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people in the room with me. The people around me, however, seemed to be somehow unfazed by the blaring stereo, crowded dorm room, and unceasing chatter and laughter reverberating off the walls. What’s more, my phone was the only one that wasn’t going off the hook with text messages from other people who weren’t already in the room.
Was something wrong with me? Practically everyone I would consider texting was already here in this very room. Was I supposed to be trying to reach out and make more friends, while I was already very busy trying to stay afloat with these friends?
As introverts know, for us it’s quality over quantity. Deep relationships are what we value over a wide circle of friends. But when it feels like everyone around you is texting and calling and scrolling all the time, it creates a strange type of loneliness for the introverts who need more than just a superficial surface relationship to find connection with others.
How I’ve Learned to Manage Using the Phone as an Introvert
While apps that make it possible to write rather than speak our thoughts can feel like a life raft for introverts, phones will never truly replace genuine human connection. Yet, unfortunately, phones are here to stay.
Here’s a few ways to deal with them (for better or worse):
- When possible, leave your phone in another room. Out of sight, out of mind.
- If you have to have your phone near you, turn off your ringer, or use Do Not Disturb mode to silence notifications. There’s often a setting you can toggle to allow calls or notifications from specific people, but silence notifications from everyone else. For me, it helps to know that someone (like my mom) can still reach me in an emergency, but I won’t have to see notifications from the latest group chat or get bombarded with work emails while I’m trying to relax.
- Schedule no-screen time. Especially in our busy world, it can be helpful to take even just 20 minutes away from your phone — everything can wait. Plus, taking a digital detox is healthy — from reducing your stress to improving your work/life balance. For example, try a mindful phone-free meal, or spend some time outside without your phone. You’ll notice the difference, I swear, and probably feel less stressed as a result.
- Ask friends to text you before calling, and model this behavior! For example, with my friends who tend to call out of the blue, I won’t do the same to them; I’ll shoot them a text first asking if it’s a good time to chat.
So while the phone is not a friend of mine — more like an acquaintance — I know it’s a necessary way to keep in touch with people (especially as this past year has proven). Luckily, there are ways to manage our relationships with our phones (and thank goodness for Do Not Disturb mode!).