When the telephone was invented in 1876 (we’ll go by the patent date) it heralded a new wave of communication within the United States and the world. As time went on, the telephone became more and more advanced; it began getting features such as self-switching, touch tone, voice mail, caller id, and more. Then it went entirely wireless and “cellular”. In 2007, the telephone changed again with the release of the Apple iPhone.
Now, communication can be done in a multitude of ways, including both active communication (calling someone) and passive communication (texting, email). We have both, and now is the time for the “phone” portion to come to an end, at least as we know it.
When you text me, it is a commitment to respond back in 160 characters or less, and there is no expectation it will be absolutely immediate. However, when you call me, there is an implied expectation that I will answer the phone. It is an immediacy of communication that is being requested. It is also, in this day of constant communication forms, extremely presumptuous.
When my phone rings, I look at the Caller ID and see who is calling. Some people have special ringtones if it is someone I talk to frequently; those same people will have special texting chimes as well. When you call, you are basically saying that whatever I am currently doing is less important than what it is you want. You don’t know what I am doing right now, but whatever it is must be less important than whatever it is you want.
So does that mean someone should never call? Absolutely not, but it is about the timing of such calls. Send me an email or a text, asking me when a good time to talk would be. Check my calendar, and put an invite on the calendar. (If you are inviting me, please make the calendar entry appropriate to the length of time you need to talk. if it is a fifteen minute conversation, don’t schedule an hour.)
Most things people want are short. Most can be answered in 160 characters or less, and if they can, why not text instead of call? I don’t want to commit to a telephone conversation which will involve huge amounts of niceties during a work week when I have a thousand things going on, and I don’t want to commit to having a discussion about meaningless things like the weather when I have a stack of work to do.
Some would say that our short communications are the downfall of civilized conversation. I would say that it puts it into perspective. I can still talk to you, but when we run out of things to say, I don’t have to make small talk or try to get you off the phone. There is a time and a place for our long phone conversations, and Tuesday at 2:00 PM isn’t it.