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JANICE WELLS: The slippery slope of compulsive phone use


Soon someone is going to come up with a 12-step program for compulsive phone users. - 123RF
Soon someone is going to come up with a 12-step program for compulsive phone users. - 123RF

I have gone over to the dark side. After years of being quite irritated with people who looked at their phones when they weren’t getting or sending a text, now “I are one.”

I know I’m on the slippery slope but so far, I do not do it when I am in company. Of any sort. I catch myself doing it in front of my five-year-old grandson and I feel ashamed and I stop.

Soon someone is going to come up with a 12-step program for compulsive phone users, but until they do, and you want to quit but just don’t have the willpower, here is my suggestion: when you find yourself looking at your phone for no reason other than to see what’s on there since you last time you looked, think of all the things that you would do when you’re alone that you would never do in front of someone.

I don’t need to get graphic here. You can think of all kinds of solitary behaviours and activities all by yourself.

That’s the stage I’m at; I’m still slightly self-conscious and embarrassed to be seen engaged with something — who knows what — on my phone. I want to keep thinking that way. I don’t like the feeling of having joined a cult, drunk the Kool-Aid, and being in danger of entering the world of zombies.

I do make exceptions, like a waiting room with no magazines, or an airport when it’s too early for strong drink. I find waiting rooms good for erasing stuff. Somehow, I feel quite fine doing that. It’s like if someone saw me cleaning out my cupboards. (Says the person with 3,596 emails not read.) My cupboards aren’t nearly that bad, but you know what I mean.

Of course, nobody but me knows I’m erasing stuff so it’s kind of foolish, but I’ve stopped caring about being foolish. Once you’ve reached 70 foolish becomes eccentric in my book and I like the idea of being eccentric much more than being foolish.

Janine says people our age without any eccentricities are kind of boring, maybe even a little sad. Janine has never had to worry about being considered boring, but she is embracing eccentricity, nonetheless.

She went over to the dark side before I did. She used to get right on my nerves. She still gets on my nerves when she does it while we’re together because I still have the moral high ground. There I am, maybe saying something really profound, and I look over at her and is she suitably impressed? Not nearly as much as she is by someone’s dog that has its own Instagram account. When I say something, she has the nerve to roll her eyes at me.

People who think like I do are becoming extinct in western society. You’re not supposed to roll up your eyes at an endangered species and say it’s out of touch with the times. You are supposed to protect its habitat and respect its place in the great scheme of things. Especially if that particular species plays a valuable role in keeping society social without the need for media.

The only reason why I have temporarily left the endangered list is because my tablet went on the blink. Then I became forced to use my phone for e-mail and Facebook and looking up important things I really need to know like where Jose Bautista is now and is he happy, and to prove important facts like Johnny Cash never served prison time.

That’s right. He didn’t. I know my Cash facts. If you don’t believe me, Google it. When you’re alone. In the privacy of your own home or car. When your friend isn’t sitting right next to you or you’re not at a table for four. Unless they’re the ones who are speaking falsehoods about Big Johnny.

Don’t let it become a habit. Keep our species alive.


Janice Wells offers her own unique take on life as a baby boomer, often served up with a twist of humour and a splash of gin. She lives in St. John’s, NL and can be reached at janicew@nf.sympatico.ca.


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