My Smartphone Problem (And How Messaging Services Have Helped It)

We live in a world, for good or for bad, that is dominated by smartphones. As phone calls begin to take more and more of a back seat in the modern era of communication, they have been replaced by texts, emails, messenger apps, and various forms of social media. All of which are right at our, figurative and literal, fingertips because of this wonderous device, the smartphone. For someone with Multiple Sclerosis, the not-so-great part of that previous sentence is “fingertips”. From very early on in my life with the disease, I have had difficulties with numbness and weakness in my hands. While it’s easy to think about some of the basic problems this causes, like dropping things, one often overlooked but persistent problem I have is the magical touch screen on my smartphone.

Numb fingers

Problems with my hands are something I’ve discussed before, particularly because of my “party hand”. I’ve had numbness in my right side for much of my life with MS, at times it is more prevalent and severe than others, but it is always somewhat of an issue. Lately, it’s been a bit worse than normal, which has really begun to affect my ability to use my smartphone. Trying to utilize the small touch screen with numb fingers can sometimes be a pointless disaster to me. It can lead to an ever increasing amount of frustration as I select the wrong buttons or fail to even register a click. There are times when my hand is so numb, that using it, even holding it at all, becomes impossible.

My ability to communicate with the world

Many will think, well, big deal, we should all spend less time on our phones anyway. While I certainly agree with that sentiment, for me though, it’s my ability to communicate with the outside world. I am on disability and spend long stretches home alone. I do not have a landline (verbal only communication is often a thing I avoid). I also live in an area where cell signal can be spotty, so I very much require more than calling and texting. The various communication methods that a smartphone can provide are very much important to me, and on the whole, can be more accessible than regular calling and texting. Being alone a lot, it’s actually been crucial for me to have my phone on me at all times in the house, because I’ve fallen and needed to use it to get help on occasion. While that’s an extreme case, it has happened enough that I keep my phone with me, even as I move through the house.

Messaging apps

While this doesn’t help me if I fall, lately, I have been able to help my communication issues by relying more on various messaging apps instead of texting/calling. When my hands are acting up, I have a much easier time going to my office and using something like Facebook messenger from my computer because it has a large, physical keyboard (they also make even larger and more modified ones for people disabilities). I’ve actually told a few close friends lately to contact me on messenger, because it’s so much easier for me. I can use my phone if my hands are having a decent day, but I can transfer to my office computer if they aren’t. Some were a bit taken aback by the request, some didn’t even have Facebook (but you don’t need an active Facebook page to have messenger, I also use WhatsApp, another messaging app that I can use via phone or desktop. There are many similar services as well, like Telegram and WeChat, and also ones that will aggregate several messaging services).

Keeping lines of communication open

So I don’t have all my smartphone issues solved, but by relying more on messaging apps, rather than calling and texting, I’ve at least been able to keep my lines of communication open, no matter how bad my hands may be. There can be a whole host of cognitive issues when using a smartphone as well, but I figured I’d touch more on my hand issues here. I feel like this might be a common issue for people, but it’s one I seldom hear about. Feel free to hit up the comments if you experience similar issues or have any tips!

Thanks for reading!

Devin

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Comments

View Comments (10)
  • Legstowalk03
    9 months ago

    Thank you for your article. I thought I was alone with my hands giving me grief. I also agree that with MS it’s hard hitting keys and making mistakes is problematic.
    My hands have horrid ‘pins and needles’ that give me excruciating pain. Any plastic surface they come into contact with aggravates the prob,em. So I wear cotton gloves which reduce the pain temporarily. When my hands are having a ‘good day’ im Prone ti dropping and breaking items which is extremely frustrating. Only the very tip of my fingertips are numb to sensations.
    Once again, Thank you Devin for sharing.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    9 months ago

    Thank you Legstowalk03, I think hand issues are common for a lot of us. They’ve been something that’s plagued me since the beginning: https://multiplesclerosis.net/living-with-ms/when-ms-isnt-only-issue/

  • ScottLMitchell
    9 months ago

    Wow, I thought it was only me. The commenters describe what I go through every single day. Sometimes I will tap a key on my iPhone 6, 7, and 8 times, and more before it responds to the one finger I’m able to use to type everthing. It takes a long time to one-finger (my right-hand middle finger) tap out any message and I spend just as much time eliminating all the typos. I’m up to 3,502 unread emails and Ive long ago gave up on unsubscribing. I’m totally disabled, bedridden in a nursing home and can only move my head and limited movement of both arms. Sometimes my left hand can cradle the phone which allows me to tap with the middle finger of my right hand. Thanks, Devin. I always enjoy your articles as you experience what I have also experienced. My phone is my lifeline to the outside world too. Hang in there.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    9 months ago

    Thanks so much ScottLMitchell, I appreciate that! Keep up the good fight!

  • itasara
    9 months ago

    Smart phone is a miracle on the one hand and a curse on the other hand. I feel I have my life with me all the time-my address books, my mail, my phone, my camera, my contact to the doctors, many apps that can help me do things Like make to do lists snd grocery lists , take notes, make reminders, set up alarms, texting which keeps me in touch rather than phone calls but then some people resent the fact that I don’t get on the phone anymore.etc. etc. I do a lot of dictating rather than typing but The phone doesn’t understand every word Or it has its own algorithms and put in its own words which isn’t what I actually said, and I constantly am going back and having to correct what I said. Same with typing it puts in things I don’t want to write and I have to go back constantly correcting them. And if I pressed the wrong thing by mistake is my thumb is too big for the one key up come the emoji pictures and then I have to fight with it to get back to the keyboard. After a while it gets so annoying I can’t begin to tell you. And then there’s the annoying phone calls I get every single day anywhere from 5 to 10 sometimes more bogus calls that I don’t answer but I do take the time to report each and everyone of them to the do not call registry for what it’s worth because so many are probably bogus numbers.I blocked them, but the sneaks have a way of getting around it. I have apps to tell me that a call is a telemarketer or spam or a spoof. It’s intrusion into one’s private life. As for emails, I am up to right now 680 unread emails. Every day I spend hours deleting reading replying to some and all this takes a tremendous amount of time. Every now and then I can let my computer I pick a name it’s been coming up in my emails all the time and I just delete them all at once or I look at the date in anything below a certain date I can leave them. So maybe to get down to 300 unread mails and was in a couple days and back up to 600. And you know some of them I have a special box for different things; one email I have forvcommercial stores and they add up fast. but in order to go through all the ones I have in a erase them I have to unsubscribe and sometimes doing that gets me even more emails for some reason. Putting them in my junk box doesn’t seem to make a difference if I don’t check my junk box I sometimes fine when I do that they aren’t important emails and ended up there and I never said it was dark. So it’s a constant daily struggle to keep up with my phone. But I agree it is very helpful and my biggest fear is that I’ll forget it somewhere or lose it or break it. I have to remember to back up my phone and computer lest I lose my important info.
    Yes I love my smart phone but it ads to my Life has becoming complicated not to mention having MS along with the complications.

  • itasara
    9 months ago

    Sorry if you find typos in my previous statement, but that’s another little problem that happens all the time. I can’t always catch them and I read through and it sounds great and looks fine and then I read through after I’ve sent it and I see I’ve missed some things. There’s no way for me to edit these photos at least not on my phone, another one of those glitches I have to live with.

  • MelissaMoore
    10 months ago

    I’ve been having trouble using my phone lately but just chalked it up to needing a new phone (which I definitely do!). My phone won’t recognize when I click on something near the edge of the phone, but maybe it’s me and my MS! I already know I have trouble typing because the letters are so darned small, but I have recently been using the speech to text option and it helps tremendously.

  • llfagan
    10 months ago

    Being able to “write” messages using the voice activation icon (a small microphone in the body of my text messages on Android) has been a huge time saver. Though I do have to edit some of the voice recognition results, it’s much less finger-dependent editing that when I type.

  • Julie
    10 months ago

    I agree. On the iPhone, you just hit the little microphone and speak your message. It’s been necessary for me because of numbness in my hands but I’ve been developing debilitating arthritis in my thumbs, which is of course what we all “type” with on our phones. Good luck and wellness to all.
    Julie

  • lcal
    10 months ago

    Devin i cant believe you just wrote this. I do most all of my internet everything from my phone and katelyveverytime i messsge its no longer hittingvthecwring keys, oe muspelling etc but rather 3/4 of the letters ti my wirds are missing. After soending. Out a week in my own head blaming my iohone, i realuzed yesterdY, oh crAp, i think its my fingers not pushing keys down like i think i am.
    Anthow, thanks for allising me to make sense iut of this. Uuuggghh
    ADD IT TO TH LIST!!!!!
    Lisa

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