Friday, March 25, 2011

Why Are You Calling Me?


The NY Times and I have recently been in sync as every time I find topic I want to discuss, they publish an article about it.  This is fantastic because of the natural jumping point, and I was thrilled to see this article regarding the demise of the telephone. 
I was a teenager before the internet truly connected the world, and also long before the advent of the cheap cell phone (they still resembled Zack Morris’s when I was 14).  This meant I did the majority of my social communicating either in person or on the telephone.  And I loved the phone.  I’d talk for hours about anything and everything on the phone.  There were times friends and I would call each other during commercial breaks of our favorite shows to discuss the plotlines. Fuck, did I love the phone.  I remember what a treat it was when my parents added a second line, for my brother and I, and also the quick moment of excitement brought by its unusually high pitched ring.  Ahh, those were the days because now…the love affair is long gone:  The phone and I broke up years ago.    
Any time my cell phone rings, the caller ID earns a curious look along with the vocalized “what the hell does (insert name here) want” while I wait for it to go to voicemail.  Then, if someone leaves a VM, I thank God that I have an iPhone so I don’t have to bother going through 50 million prompts to check it (like I do at work. Seriously, want a quick way to piss me off?  Leave me a work VM that just says “call me.”).  Also, nine times out of ten, I answer the person’s voicemail with a text because, well, I just don’t want to talk on the phone.  Sure, there are occasions when I don’t feel like typing a text or an email and will make a call in its place, but this has definitely become the exception to the rule. 
But even though I engage in this behavior, this always struck me as a strange cultural movement because, while most technological advances seem to make our private lives public (and increase communication), the phone call is still the most effective way of communicating quickly.  It’s personal, it’s instantaneous, you can actually hear personality in the voice so there’s no misinterpretation of tone, and it’s incredibly easy.  Plus, how many times have you sent an important email or text and then wondered if it actually was delivered due to the lack of response you thought it deserved?  With a phone call, or even a VM, we never question the transmission.  So, having said all that, why is this personal form of communication dying out in favor of something that’s seemingly slightly less reliable? 
The Times article makes the interesting point that a phone call is naturally intrusive, after all it’s annoying ring will distract you from any activity.  This is true to a point, though no one is forcing you to answer it, but I’ve actually grown accustomed to believing that phone calls actually, now, put people on the spot, lessening your chance for a genuine reaction.  We’ve become so used to taking our time to think through e-mails and texts that the idea of answering immediately has become intimidating, even though that was the way we always used to do it.  How has society become less socially skilled in an age where social media has dominated?
Anyone have strong (or not so strong) opinions on this?  Have we just become more impersonal?  Are there now so many forms of communication that we need to catalog our conversations (as all emails, texts, IM conversations are stored) for sake of record? 

1 comment:

  1. I think you're repaying me for those teaching blog posts of mine that you used to enjoy. (If your memory serves, I had shit from an upstairs bathroom flowing down my blackboard).

    I can't get enough of these. :)