When I first upgraded to an iPhone a couple of years ago I was choosing my ringtone and message tone and doing all the things you usually do when you get a new phone. Choosing alert tones should be relatively easy but I have an added complication, ringing phones tend to elicit more of a dread in me than excitement, I think it’s an introvert thing. I need to choose something that I enjoy enough to overcome that. Choosing a ringtone wasn’t too difficult, I had been using the first 30 seconds of Hong Kong Garden by Siouxsie and the Banshees for a while and just pulled that over from my old phone. The violins are upbeat and not intrusive, and the sample finishes before any words so it doesn’t have an awkward cut out.
Choosing a message tone was a lot harder. I’d enjoyed the fact that barely anyone had a similar phone to me for too long. All of the apple tones sounded like other people’s phones. There was one I liked called sherwood, it sounded pretty much like the name, like a low and euphonious horn sounding deep in the forest. But I didn’t choose it. It was a bit long for a message tone, and… maybe a bit weird, not like most phone alert sounds. I knew if I chose it there would be comments and I think it’s another introvert thing, but I don’t like drawing attention to myself. And because it was longer than a second I was worried other people might find it irritating. So I went with the much more common glass sound because it was short and I didn’t altogether hate it.
It wasn’t long before it began to grate on me. The high-pitched noise demanded immediate attention so I wouldn’t hear it again in ten seconds. Particularly annoying if it was from my phone provider or a marketing text. Hearing it over and over again if I was having a texting conversation annoyed me. Successive texts were painful. I heard it everywhere, the piercing noise sounded the same if it was coming from my handbag or the phone of a stranger. I was forever checking my phone because someone else’s phone had sounded. It was always waiting to give me a little shock.
When the most recent iOS upgrade came I knew I needed a change, but I didn’t like any of the new ones any better. Finally I found the classic tones section and stumbled back over the sherwood sound. ‘Screw ‘em,’ I thought to myself, not exactly sure who the abbreviated ‘them’ referred to, ‘I like this tone.’ I set it as my tone and waited for someone to text me.
After six months I cannot believe that I didn’t just choose the tone to start with. Because the tone is lower it’s also a bit quieter, which means sometimes I’m the only one that hears it if it’s muffled by my hand bag. The tone never makes me jump. Because I like the tone I’m more inclined to leave it for the second time if I’m busy doing something else. I do get comments, frequently, of ‘the hounds are coming’ or a like but I am able to laugh them off and realise that comments don’t always mean criticism, I feel like a more confident person with my individual sounding phone. And not once has someone complained that they have been irritated by it.
It’s funny, I never thought that something as small as a message tone would have such an impact. But it got me to thinking, how many times do I do, or not do, something because of the fear that a mythical group of people will somehow be put out or judge me for it? How many times do I leave the house in an outfit I don’t like because I feel it will be more appropriate than the one I secretly wanted to wear? How much food have I eaten that I didn’t want because I felt I had to? How many times have I positioned my self exactly in the way by anticipating that someone wants to be where I wanted to go? How often do I defer to someone else’s plans when they actually don’t have any and would just like me to make a decision? How often are people happy to give me what I want but I just don’t ask?
I’ve decided, inspired by the sherwood ringtone, that it’s time for you, and me, to just choose what makes you happy. I’m not talking about doing jerky selfish things when it directly deprives someone else of something, like cutting in line, or littering because there is enough of that in this world. But how many times do we make an insignificant decision based on what others may think instead of what we want? Too many I say. Because really how many people are that affected by my message tone? I don’t work in a cubicle situation, and I always have my phone on silent when appropriate. So go on, make some decisions for yourself.
How many times do you make decisions based on what others might think? What do you find yourself constantly giving in on and making decisions that make you unhappy?