Is Talking on the Phone Really That Bad?

As I broke from some blog cleanup and preparation for an article or two, I came across a Google+ post and discussion thread about phone calls. If you read these two threads, you’ll discover a sentiment that they may in fact be the worst thing mankind has ever had to deal with. Read the threads for yourselves:

 

John's Phone - white

 

(I want this phone. Image “borrowed” of johnsphones.com)

It got me wondering: is talking on the phone really that bad? And if so, why?

The arguments, or whining perhaps more appropriately stated, that are voiced in the G+ posts and comments point out that they don’t want to be bothered by a call and that, as the recipient of the communication request, control of when they want to respond should be completely up to them. The other primary argument is that Internet and other text based communication mediums are more efficient and ultimately less intrusive.

As a tech savvy person, I use most forms of communication available to me on a regular basis, save for written letters though I hold a special place in my heart for the medium. Yet I fear for the future of human interaction when I read the sentiments in the posts and comments on phone calls. My main problem? The growing inability of people to form cohesive sentences and thoughts in written form. Check out just about anything on social media to see what I’m talking about. If the primary path of future communication is writing, our English teachers have a difficult road ahead of them. My prayers are with you.

While I am not against texts, IM, email, or any other electronic medium to reach people in a written fashion, there’s something missing in all of these: personality, warmth, inflections of the voice, and many other subtle clues that are often misunderstood in the written word.¬†However, the biggest issue I see underlying all this goes much deeper that phone calls:

Control.

Everyone wants full control of everything in their lives. The posters and commenters feel like a phone call is some sort of intrusion into their day. In some odd sense of irony, all these other methods of communication are just as intrusive and distracting as a call is. Smartphones, tablets, and computers so often make a noise to get our attention that some new message has arrived, claiming to require our time. And we’ve trained ourselves to give in to those distractions and allow it to take us away from whatever we’re doing or whoever we may be with in person. Of course, why all these people are so bothered by a phone call when it’s so easy to ignore them in the first place is beyond me.

The “trouble” with talking on the phone is also that we have to give it 100% of our attention for it to be a proper conversation. We can’t (attempt to) multitask the way we do with Internet and text-based communication. It becomes obvious when we’re not paying attention to what the person just said over the phone when you’re also IM’ing with someone on the computer. Do we really think we’re all so important and busy that we can’t focus on one person at a time and really delve into a conversation that has some depth to it? Are our friends and family truly not worth it? Don’t we want the same back when we have something to share?

Maybe it’s time to slow down again, declutter our lives, do a little less multitasking in our communications, and spend time talking with people AND listen when others are talking to us.

  • Syntax

    A simple trick that I recently learned is to use a program that will disable data on my smartphone while the screen is off. This was originally done to conserve battery power which it does very well. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I no longer receive e-mails unless I am looking at the phone. A very useful unintended consequence that has freed me, if only marginally, from the electronic leash.

  • So I went back and read the G+ posts and I have to say, I’m really mad! I just can’t believe that people think this way… I think you’re right that it has to do with control, but even more I think it has to do with this entitlement era that seems to be so dominant. Everyone is so entitled to everything and that makes them so important and everything they do is so much better… Of course they wouldn’t deign to answer the phone…

    But the fact that they find it so obtrusive….. I know that I for one prefer phone calls to texts (and I’m the oddball that still writes letters and sends cards to friends), and I prefer them to emails or IM’s. While I still make use of the technology provided to me, there is so much lost through the computer. Inflection of someones voice, the honesty and sincerity of it all. I mean, how often can someone say something silly or sarcastic over IM and it ends up being offensive. Tone of voice. It allows people to understand the truth behind the sentence.

    I don’t mind text or IM if its a quick “how’s your day” or “lets make plans”; and I like emailing with friends who live away from me because we aren’t always on the same timetable, but there is just something real about hearing someones voice….

    And perhaps that’s it… maybe we’re losing a sense of what’s real… maybe we don’t want reality… Maybe people prefer their bubbles?

    How sad.

    • Entitlement and control do seem to go hand in hand, don’t they? As long as the “intrusion” is initiated by yourself, it’s not a problem.

      The growing inability to communicate with our fellow humans, in spite of the new ways available to us thanks to technology, is absolutely a cause for concern. Where do we go from here? How do we not spiral into a world where “communicating” consistently fails to actually deliver the message we want to send?