Friday 17 January 2020

Behind the screen....the waiting game

As I sit and stare at the screen, I have a multitude of mixed emotions. I am waiting. I could be waiting forever, yet it doesn't seem to stop me. I continue to stare and check and wait some more...

We have all been there, either waiting for that text, email, WhatsApp, "like" comment, phone call and it never appears. It is like waiting for a kettle to boil but even that is much quicker than waiting for the unknown communication that we want and even fantasise about.

We are a nation obsessed. Constantly attached to our phones, laptops and tablets. Waiting for some kind of response or connection to another person. Whether it be an employer, prospective employer, our crush, our date, our friend, our family member, doctor. We sit and wait for some sort of communication.

Is this healthy? Aren't we just putting our lives on hold when we could actually be doing something far more productive? Is this notion of waiting just feeding into our negative thought process?

We have become a nation of screen viewers always waiting for something to happen on the screen, whether it be a phone or computer. Does it make us feel better? Chances are probably not but it has becomes a craze, an addiction a habit that proves somewhat difficult to break.

I have spoken to many people over the past few years, as social media and technology has become into full bloom, about this concept of screen watching and waiting. It appears we have all done it at some point. It might feel like it gives us some kind of temporary relief  and comfort but long term I believe it actually causes us to feel a whole lot worse.

For example, imagine you are waiting for an important call from a medic with test results. Does starring at the screen help with that anxiety you are feeling and make the call come sooner? Unlikely.

Does checking your emails over and over and staring vacantly into the screen make the prospective employer send that email any quicker, probably not.

And finally, does re checking WhatsApp to see if they are "online" make that person message you more hastily, nope, it really doesn't.

We could potentially be waiting forever, waiting for something to never actually arrive. Sounds like a total waste of time doesn't it? Yet we all can still do it.

Do we get comfort knowing that the other person is just at the other end of their device but not actually communicating with us? For that brief moment, I think it can. If you have been distant from a loved one, just to get that glimpse of that they are alive and kicking being  "online" can provide a very fleeting amount of comfort but before long those negative thoughts can start to creep in. "Why are they online?" "Who are they communicating with?" and so on. Our thoughts seem to run away with us. We have this incredible ability to start to catastrophise and before we know it we have invented a whole a ray of unhelpful thoughts and situations up in our own heads without actually basing anything on the true facts.

How do we even break that habit, especially as it enables us momentary comfort or relief. I guess we need to sit with that discomfort and the feeling will eventually pass. It has to, a state of anxiety is physiologically impossible to keep on going, it will pass. 

This unhelpful behaviour of checking is fuelling the fire which has an enormous amount of impact upon how we feel emotionally and the way we think. Checking the screen is giving us symptoms of anxiety so why do we want to cause ourselves anxiety? I guess it seems  easier to quickly check than it is to ignore. 

If we choose to ignore and not check and sit starring at our screens and scrolling through various social media platforms and messaging services, initially, we might have that sense of "what if they make some sort of contact" but actually siting with that discomfort and repeating that as often as we can will result in us accepting that it is ok not to check and the outcome is still the same if not more proportionally easier or better. 

We as humans need to accept uncertainty before we become a nation of highly strung anxious people. Easier said than done and it does take practice. I am sure there will be days when it is easier to check than not to and in certain situations. But I think for our own sanity we must try .

I for one, if I am honest, have subjected myself into the staring at my screen and the checking game and waiting for that communication to never arrive, does it make me feel better? Yes, but only temporarily, in the long run does it make me feel worse? Yes. So like most of us, I need to try and not to give into temptation and even for a short period put the screen down by making changes. Those changes might be engaging in other activities in the so called "real" world.

Fortunately for me the screen I use to write this on, isn't linked to any email, phone or messaging service so I can feel at ease and comfort when writing my blog without any form of mentally tortuous distraction, well minus intermittently the landline ringing, but as no one has that number I would assume that it is just a robotic telesales call. 

So go on, give it a go. Try putting that screen down, try not checking, yes it will hurt but the question is...."What hurts more?"

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