When I was growing up (in the ’80’s) phones were definitely associated with girls. I can remember spending hours on the phone with my girlfriends, talking about who-knows-what because usually I had spent the entire day with them. We called boys – sometimes – but those were quick, awkward conversations. Girls were on the phone with girls.
In fact, we all talked on the phone so much that many of our parents set limits to how much we could be on the phone – 30 minutes or an hour on a school night, for example.
Fast forward to today, and everyone I know is on their phone – constantly. In bed, while watching TV, on the train, in the bathroom, at work, at dinner, at social events. Constant compulsive checking phones and texting and opening up Facebook and Twitter because you.can’t.stop.
At my house, we’ve tried to set some limits on phone use for us adults, but with little success – we’re tethered.
There have been only three situations in the past year where I found myself in environments without compulsive phone checking, and both have been all-women’s events. Coincidence?
Once was at the Massachusetts Women’s Conference. With 10,000 women in the general sessions, of course there were people checking phones in the audience, but nowhere near as much as you see at a typical conference. In the smaller sessions, I hardly saw any phones come out.
The second places was at an alumni mentoring event that was half recent college grads and half those of us in our 30’s and 40’s. I am pretty sure that I was the only person who took out her phone at all during the 2-hour event, and I did it with a degree of shame! (In my defense, my husband was traveling and I wanted to make sure the babysitter didn’t have any questions.)
The third is at my monthly professional lunch meeting. 8-10 women around the table, and phones usually don’t come out for 90 minutes until we need to talk scheduling.
So the interesting question here is “why”. Why are women’s-only events places where we check our phones less? Here are some hypotheses:
1. Some number of women, for whatever reason, are less inclined to compulsively check their phones. As such, the phenomenon of contagious phone checking is less impactful. (Maybe. Not sure how to figure this one out.)
2. Women care less about their jobs, so they’re less invested in checking email when they’re out of the office. (Just kidding, want to make sure you’re still reading.)
3. Women consider these networking events crucial to their success and don’t want anything interrupting them. (A good hypothesis. Especially in male-dominated fields like mine, I’m not running into people in the men’s room or the golf course – so these events are my chance to forge those bonds.)
I think that last hypothesis is the most likely – and I’ll take it even a step further. I consider the time I spend doing these things “my” time in a way that almost nothing else I do belongs to me. I’m not saying I have no downtime – I do. But I might spend it watching TV (with my husband) or shopping (usually for babyDiva) or cooking (which I love, but it’s for the family). And going to professional development events is something that is really, truly, just for me.
Maybe this is how other people feel about the gym. But that’s another post for another time.