By: Hannah Mamet  | 

The Never-Ending Text Message Pile-Up

If you forgot your phone at home, would you go all the way back to retrieve it? Of course you would! Now, if you forgot your wallet at home, would you go all the way back to retrieve it? Possibly. In other words, while we can survive without our wallets, we cannot survive without our phones.

Much research has been devoted to the current generation’s increasing dependency on phones. Arlene Harris, an entrepreneur in telecommunications, powerfully stated in a recent article that “there are more mobile phones in use today than there are people, but measuring quantity alone trivializes the importance of the mobile phone to those who rely on it.” Put differently, while the sheer number of phones in this world is remarkable, what is even more striking is the level of impact these devices have. 

Phones are used for almost everything and have essentially become extensions of our bodies. They tell us when to wake up and when to go to sleep, remind us of our doctor’s appointments, deposit checks and provide us with endless forms of entertainment. Mobile phones have also revolutionized many aspects of society. Health apps have brought medical care to places that were previously unreachable, and navigation apps have allowed us to travel farther, more safely and efficiently than ever before. The cellphone revolution has even played a role in judicial decisions. In an article by Sarah Jeong, she discusses how in the 2014 Supreme Court Case Riley v. California, Chief Justice John Roberts identified phones as an integral part of human existence, a decision that has already impacted numerous areas of legislation. 

It is therefore no surprise that this dependency on phones leads to an endless list of unread messages. In Joanna Stern’s article “Sorry I Missed Your Text: Messaging is the New Email,” she states that “messaging apps are no longer a place just for close friends and family; they’re now also where we sync with class parents, business contacts and every expected attendee of the coming family reunion.” While in the past companies and organizations spammed our email addresses, they now often reach us via text. Stern attributes this to “everyone want[ing] to meet us where we’re the most engaged and responsive.” Even YU falls into this category. While in the past, announcements about events might have been limited to emails, there are now numerous group chats for all different purposes including Judaic events, clubs, speakers and more. 

Nearly every time I pick up my phone, I find myself lost in a sea of WhatsApp messages from random group chats. I sometimes feel that if I am off my phone for any significant period of time, I then need to spend a similar amount of time catching up on my unread messages. The sheer amount of announcements and club group chats prevent one from finding the more important messages from friends and family.

The feeling of having to catch up on messages or seeing many emails can be very overwhelming and stressful. However, there are ways to manage the constant cell phone notifications while still being fully active in our lives. To better separate work and family, Stern suggests relegating certain messages to your business email address, which allows you to preserve your messaging apps as almost exclusively personal. Additionally, if you are not interested in a business contacting you altogether, do not hesitate to exit the chat or unsubscribe. As Stern points out, “we can’t be engaged and responsive if we can’t sort the important from the unimportant.” Similarly, if you are rarely going to read any of the messages from a group chat, perhaps think again before joining. Finally, to limit the long list of texts, you can set aside certain times during the day to catch up or ensure that you answer all of them before you go to sleep. 
Since we live in an era that is so dependent on technology, it is of the utmost importance for us to actively determine what role our phones play in our lives. Confronting the never-ending text message pile-up that many of us have can certainly be daunting. However, by setting aside time for responding, separating the important from the unimportant and not hesitating to exit chats, we move away from a constant state of stress to one of undivided attention on the most important things in life.

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Photo Caption: WhatsApp notifications

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