She calls and says, “I just want to hear your voice.”
But my reaction was a massive sigh. And then I say, “Thank God.” to which she responds: “Why, you missed me too?”
“Well, yes. But that’t not why I said thank God.”
“Why did you say thank God?”
“Cos I was afraid. You called my phone two times. I thought something was wrong.”
She laughs. “Silly. Nothing was wrong. Just wanted to hear your voice.”
But texting, chatting on WhatsApp, that’s also talking. Yes, sarcasm doesn’t translate well in text but when you pepper that text with the right kind of emojis, you can convey a range of emotions, can’t you?
“Not the same,” she says.
“Wow. I just really don’t like phone calls. I prefer texts.”
I and about 9 million other Nigerians. We prefer to text. We’d rather do non face-to-face conversations through typed words, not spoken words.
Of course this 9 million statistic is not accurate because I only borrowed the percentage — 4.5% — from the United States, where 15 million of them live with phone anxiety. And yes, there are several reasons to not equate Nigeria to America. But still.
Phone anxiety isn’t even a new thing. It’s been there for ages, since the days of the candlestick telephone. The phone would ring and the person on the receiving end would feel like using the toilet. The pit of their stomach would become an implacable tempest.
It is not a fear of the telephone itself. It’s a fear of what messages the device may be about to deliver. It’s a bona fide form of anxiety. Psychologist call it Telephone Phobia.
And the consequences of Telephone Phobia can be staggering. Sometimes people miss good news that could change their life because they just wouldn’t pick up the phone.
It’s ironic, isn’t it, that in an age where most of our interactions invoice the use of digital devices, including the mobile phone, an age-old mental condition still dogs us.
Thankfully, there’s a treatment for Phone Phobia: texting.
Also, unlike the ancient humans who lacked caller ID, call forwarding, voicemail, and WhatsApp, Gen X, Millennials, GenZ, and Gen Alpha can relax a bit. They can rest in the comfort of alternative tools that may help neutralise the “what ifs” that usually trigger anxiety.
And there’s CBT. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It has been said that CBT includes mindfulness exercises and meditation. Ultimately, CBT should help the patient get to the point where he thinks: my feelings are not facts. The thinking that will get him to confront his fears.
The next time the phone rings, he’ll take two deep breaths. Whoosah. And then he’ll pick up the phone.