One Sunday, my boyfriend, Pete, and I didn't meet up as usual, having just returned from a holiday together. Instead, I spent much of the day online, catching up on Twitter and Facebook, and responding to emails. Amongst the messages I sent were a couple of inconsequential ones to Pete.
While I'm tied to a PC for online activities, he has mobile access and is usually fairly quick to reply. The hours passed, however, and still he didn't respond. I experienced a flutter of concern, but then it occurred to me that he might be on a bike ride. Relaxing, I carried on...until the early evening, when I still hadn't heard from him. Based on past experience, this was unusual.
|Photos courtesy of Peter Gettins|
If he'd stayed at home, he would have texted me to report on his day, or posted something on Twitter or Facebook: either photos - usually of his cat, Bandit - or messages about what they were up to. He hadn't.
No texts, emails, Tweets, Facebook posts or photos. All day. The only logical conclusion was that something terrible had happened to him. At that point, I went old school, and phoned him on his landline. No reply. I only managed to wait five minutes before I called again; this time, he picked up.
Needless to say, nothing awful had come to pass. He had just had an atypical day in not communicating with the outside world, and had been in the bath when I had finally phoned him.
When we first became a couple, mobiles were hardly used - and only had the facility for calls or texts - and our usual contact was just one chat, in the evening, on our landlines. Yes, I would immediately panic if Pete didn't answer the phone at the scheduled time, but mutual silence during the day was the norm.
The pressure to be in touch with everybody, all of the time, is not only stressful in its own right, but also leads to anxiety when somebody seems to drop off the radar.
The coverage of the centenary of the start of World War I has made me reflect on how times have changed. Then, communications with troops were infrequent, slow and unreliable. Families might endure months of uncertainty as to a loved one's status, whether missing, injured or dead. I can only imagine their stress, while they waited for news.
In light of their suffering, it seems somehow shameful that I've allowed my anxious disposition to turn the benefits of 21st century technology to my mental disadvantage.