When I was teenager, I used to love to talk on the phone. I got my own phone in my bedroom for my 16th birthday – when I was 15-and-a-half because I’d kept the family phone line tied up so much no one (except my friends, who would routinely call the operator and make “emergency interruptions”) could get through.
As the years went by, I was fascinated by the “car phone”, something that was financially out of my reach. I used Sprint, had a calling “circle of friends” and dialed bizarre codes like “10-10-111” before a number to get cheap long distance rates to keep reaching out and touching those I liked as we moved around the country.
Then along came cell phones, tons of minutes and the ability to talk from one end of the nation to the other while “on the go”. In the days before laws that banned one from driving while talking on the phone (and headsets) everyone could have a “car phone”. What joy (and convenience) to be chatting with your best friend in Connecticut while looking for a parking space at a mall in California!
And then one day my phone rang and I didn’t answer it. Even though I knew who it was (my mother), I couldn’t be bothered. Can’t she learn to text, I thought. The phone call became an intrusion, an interruption to my time on Facebook where I was telling 272 people what I was doing right now. Anyone who was anyone (my circle of friends had grown way beyond the five I used to be able to pick as part of my calling plan) knew I was making a chicken tortilla pie (amazingly, with one hand on some keyboard).
Then nearly as strangely as my phone started ringing all the time back when I was a teenager, in the last few years it kind of stopped. Oh, the telemarketers still call (no matter how many “Do Not Call” lists I register my number on). And Mom still calls (although she does log onto Facebook every day, so when we do talk, we simply comment in real-time about our recent status updates). But my phone time is down about 999% and I’m not alone. If your phone isn’t ringing as much as it used to, chances are you’re not dialing it as much as you used to either.
According to Clive Thompson of Wired, on “The Death of the Phone Call“,
According to Nielsen, the average number of mobile phone calls we make is dropping every year, after hitting a peak in 2007. And our calls are getting shorter: In 2005 they averaged three minutes in length; now they’re almost half that.
For all the reasons I mentioned above, and then some. We are “in constant, lightweight contact in so many other ways: texting, chatting, and social-network messaging. And we don’t just have more options than we used to. We have better ones: These new forms of communication have exposed the fact that the voice call is badly designed…[they are] emotionally high-bandwidth, which is why it’s so weirdly exhausting to be interrupted by one.”
And, according to Thompson we apparently find voicemail “even more excruciating: Studies show that more than a fifth of all voice messages are never listened to.”
It appears the phone call as some of us like me used to know it, it going the way of so many other once cutting-edge forms of technology (like the car phone and the answering machine). Caller ID kind of signaled its death knell years ago. But the phone call as a coordinated plan to catch up with Mom or those in your real “circle of friends” once a month or so is still a coveted slice of downtime. Just be sure to use email, texting and an instant message or two to set it up in advance, rather than a cold smile and dial.
Source: Clive Thompson, Wired.com, “The Death of the Phone Call.“