Phone Calls Are So Last Century

from the keep-up-with-the-times dept

A month or so ago, a friend of mine asked if I could do a favor (helping point someone in the right direction for a job) for someone -- a relative of a friend of my friend, so this was pretty distant. There was an email introduction, and a request to talk by phone so I could learn a bit more about this person in order to actually help. I noted that I was busy over the next few days, but had some open time on a Thursday morning or Friday afternoon, expecting, as usually seems to happen in these cases, that they'd come back with some specific times. Instead, the person emailed "great, give me your phone number and I'll call when available." I found myself immediately uninterested. Something in the back of my brain said "if this person doesn't respect my time enough to actually set a specific time, but would prefer to just interrupt me at random, then I'm going to pass on helping here." I don't know if that's a rude response -- perhaps it is -- but it's what I felt. And it was at that point that I realized how rare it is that I'll accept or make unexpected or unplanned phone calls, with the exception of my wife and my parents (and potentially some work-related "emergency.") There are a few very close, long-term friends that I'll call every so often, but I really haven't done that in a while, and I feel a bit awkward about doing it these days. I still talk on the phone for meetings, but always at set times.

Apparently, I'm not the only person who feels this way. Many people are realizing that random phone calls are just not considered polite any more. They're somewhat interruptive and can be annoying. What strikes me as really interesting is that this isn't a case of just the "younger generation" feeling this way -- but it's actually true of many older people as well.

I find this interesting for any number of reasons, including how counterintuitive it may actually be. These days, people have phones with them at all times. In the past, when most people didn't have mobile phones, such random calls were more common. And you might assume that our greater access to telephony would mean greater desire to make calls. Now, obviously, a big part of the reason for making calls has been replaced by (mostly text-based) alternative means, such as email, text messaging and social networks. But, I'd argue that the greater access also makes us more wary in general. For example, I was thinking about calling a friend recently, who I hadn't spoken to in a while, but realized it would be his mobile phone, and what if he was out with his wife and kids, and I didn't want to interrupt that.

It's kind of an interesting phenomenon, which makes me wonder if the idea of personal voice calls was really just a temporary slice of time that is going entirely out of style. Perhaps there will be some sort of quaint revival, like the idea that people have of writing paper letters to each other these days as being more "personal," but the whole phenomenon of the random personal phone call is pretty much becoming a thing of the past.


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    TriZz (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 6:24am

    Can you hear me now?

    I was just having a discussion about this with a friend of mine. I hate being on the telephone. I absolutely hate it. I get that it's necessary sometimes, such as job interviews, doctor's appointments, etc...but I don't like it one bit. Even with old friends...and I didn't understand why.

    After much discussion, I realized that I didn't like being on the phone because when I'm on a phone call, I can't realistically do anything else but be on that phone call. If I'm listening to music in my car, watching TV/movie at home, at work, hanging out with a group of friends...if I'm on the phone, I have to be on the phone. If I'm doing something else, the person on the other end of the convo will know that I'm distracted.

    Texting, email, IM, FB, et all...allow me to do other things while engaging in some interaction with you. I can be with a group of friends out at dinner and shoot someone a quick text and not be considered rude. I can reply to a comment on FB while watching a movie and not have to pause said movie.

    ...I don't really consider an unscheduled phone call rude. I just find that it's easier to do more when I'm not anchored to a phone attached to my ear.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 7:18am

    Re: Can you hear me now?

    Agreed. However, I'll add the fact that there is something comfortable about writing out your words, being able to see them, and only then sending them. Particularly for those of us that haven't quite gotten a handle on the importance of being politically correct and/or not offending people, writing instead of talking is probably preferred....

     

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    Mesanna, Mar 24th, 2011 @ 7:24am

    No inconvenience

    In the past, phone calls were the easiest (and sometimes only) way to keep in touch with someone if you didn't want to wait days for a letter to arrive. These days there are just so many other options, like Facebook, Twitter, email, SMS etc. that it just isn't necessary to interrupt someone's day in order to make plans for the weekend or whatever. If you're working all day, your boss may frown on long personal phone calls, but a couple of quick text messages or Facebook updates at lunchtime don't raise any eyebrows.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 24th, 2011 @ 7:27am

    I think really what you are seeing is a trend away from actual social interaction, replaced by a sort of multi-tasking sort of social interaction that requires no real personal effort.

    A discussion, in person or on the phone, requires much of your personality to make it go. You have to be "present", you have to focus, and you have to give your attention to the person (or people) you are speaking to. It is a 1 on 1 situation, requiring a certain amount of social and personal commitment to make happen.

    In a texting, messaging, facebooking, IMing world, you don't have to use any of your true personal skills. You can answer at your own speed, you can ignore someone for a few extra seconds / minutes whatever without any social issues, and you don't have to pay full attention to anyone.

    Sadly, it may be an indication of a loss of social skills, as well as a loss of attention span. It isn't long before business meetings over lunch are replaced with people hiding in their cube-pods eating takeout (that they got in a drive thru, no reason to get out and deal with people), eating their greasy meal and sending IMs to people. At the end of the day, they all get into their personality projection mobiles (carefully selected cars and trucks to portray a personality they are no longer able to muster by themselves) and drive home to their personality projection home.

    Once home, they sit in front of their personal TV in their den away from their 2.4 kids and wife and watch the programs off their DVR that they recorded in the last few days, eating the soggy, greasy food that they microwaved back to being warm, while sending IM's to "friends".

    Sounds thrilling, doesn't it?

    I think when personal contact becomes an interruption in your life, you perhaps need to re-check your life.

     

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    Yogi, Mar 24th, 2011 @ 7:27am

    Male?

    Mike, I believe, following this post, that you are not a woman and probably don't live with one.

    In short, your sample is probably very biased.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 24th, 2011 @ 7:31am

    Re: Male?

    Or you rely too much on stereotypes.

     

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    Karl S, Mar 24th, 2011 @ 7:33am

    Strangely enough. I think that the ubiquity of mobile phone may actually be the cause of this new dislike of random phone calls.

    Before everyone had a mobile phone, our availability to receive incoming calls was pretty geographically limited (home or work) and they each had a different "address" (phone number). That allowed for a decent separation of "personal" and "business" contact with a select few having access to both numbers. Also, to be honest, if we didn't want to take the call we had the plausible excuse of "not being home" or "not in the office."

    Now, we are always available and most people that we speak with have accessto a single number. Since we no longer have a "geographic filter" for the incoming calls, and they know that we know who is calling (thank you caller-id) we feel obliged to "take the call." Hence the cause of our annoyance and dislike of phone calls. I think...

     

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    Tor (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 7:35am

    If you are a busy person then the cost of getting interrupted will probably be higher than the cost of the call (in terms of what the phone company charges). In that sense, making an unscheduled phone call is somewhat akin to making a collect call, i.e. making something at the expense of the receiver.

     

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    known coward, Mar 24th, 2011 @ 7:35am

    in my experience

    I work in the telecommunications industry. I find most of my colleagues (my self included) feel the exact same way. This has been a topic of conversation in the past.

    The telephone is an interruption in our lives and never at the receivers convenience. My preferred method of communication is email.

    I have always thought it was an industry specific phenomena, maybe I am wrong , I am curious to read what the rest of your readers have to say on this.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 7:36am

    Re: Re: Male?

    Are you honestly suggesting that there isn't a gender component relative to time spent talking on a phone?

     

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    Andy (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 7:39am

    I agree...and also

    As I have heard it noted before, a telephone is really a very rude device. It's ring is effectively the caller shouting "Here I am, give me your immediate attention!" Yes, one can ignore the ring, or silence it, but that is not always easy to do. For me, I start wondering whether I have ignored something really important.

    Things are mitigated somewhat with caller ID of course, so one can choose, based on caller, whether to answer or not. But ultimately, more modern methods of communication generally leave open the option to give them attention now or later on. If someone leaves a voicemail, phones offer that too, but so many people simply hang up when they hear the voicemail prompt that I rarely have the option available to me.

    I am in my late forties and identify wholeheartedly with the sentiment. To Yogi, who commented about women, I have to say that even my wife has commented to me that she rarely actually calls anyone and few people call her these days. Most of our communication, with friends, family or for work, is done using other electronic means (email, chat, instant messaging or even forum posts).

     

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    Alex Kavanagh (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 7:39am

    Re:

    I don't think this is what he is saying. It's the unplanned interruptions that are so annoying. I love speaking to people on the phone, meeting them and generally using those "social skills". However, I find it really annoying to be deep in concentration and then have the phone go off. It just feels rude.

    Of course, you could argue that I could switch it off, but then I might miss that really important call.

     

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    Yogi, Mar 24th, 2011 @ 7:40am

    Re: Re: Re: Male?

    I think he was poking fun at me, and with good reason too.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 24th, 2011 @ 7:42am

    Re:

    In case you did not notice, before there were these new-fangled phones (the chained-to-the-wall kind of phones), people actually had to be physically present to initiate social interactions.

    I bet that even then (when the telephone was invented) there were people, much like yourself, going like "Oh no! Humanity is doomed! Kids don't need to leave the house to socialise! They'll become so fat and heave that they will tilt the Earth's axis and send us all rolling to a Sunny doom! Hyperbole!".

    One last thing: if you see your boss/colleague discussing something (work related, you assume) with someone else, do you just barge in and interrupt? Probably not, that's considered rude. Now think: what makes calling him "less" rude? Ignorance? Or the fact that he can't hit you?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 24th, 2011 @ 7:46am

    Re: I agree...and also

    Andy, try this: Try to live a full week without your phone, except as a text message device. Forward all you calls direct to voice mail with a "I am not taking calls this week", unplug your home phone, and work with it for 7 days.

    I think you will find that you didn't realize how often you use your phone(s).

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 24th, 2011 @ 7:50am

    I just took a call, while reading this article. Took it, because reading this made me conscious of the number of times that I just press "silence" on the phone.

    I do agree with Mike on this, the ubiquity of phone access, it's actually diminishing its usefulness. We have after all, many other means of communication, many of them using even the same device (phone) that are a lot less intrusive. A phone call is getting the social equivalence of a intimate contact. Not because it is that intimate at all, it's the time consumption involved, the need to be available in exclusivity, the need to reduce the noise level around you, the possibility of being overheard.

    Lately, I find myself looking for reasons to start a voice call, and with the sole exceptions of close family, like parents and wife and kids, not really finding good enough reasons to make them. Usually, what those calls would solve, can be solved by an e-mail, or SMS.

    Only exception is to complain about my internet service, or, phone service, that, I am sorry, but it's only satisfying with a phone call, most of the times, yelling at the top of my lungs, with a poor call-center operator that is even more powerless then myself. But, that's life, I guess... Everything changes. :)

     

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    xenomancer (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 7:52am

    So, what's you number again?

     

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    Pixelation, Mar 24th, 2011 @ 7:58am

    The truth...

    Admit it Mike, you just don't like people.

     

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    Jay (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 7:59am

    Re: Re: Can you hear me now?

    I'll have to disagree somewhat. I actually find that sometimes text can't convey the nuances that speech does. We might value the written word, and keep those as records, but find that when I'm not busy, I prefer to talk to people on the phone as opposed to a text message.

    Granted, I know that some of our Representatives prefer the written word, but the fact is that speaking to people does a lot more in my view.

    I have a few friends that are out of my state. Of course, we connect on Facebook. But every now and then, we love to just BS on the phone and it's helpful for advice when it's not just written language. I think people absorb more knowledge from speech than they do from text sometimes.

    Mike, one thing I would say about unsolicited phone calls. I find that if I ask someone if they're busy first, we can schedule time to talk to each other, rather than a straight phone call. It helps a lot more in respecting both party's time.

     

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    Fickelbra (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 8:04am

    Great Article

    This is a very true trend. I was talking to my girlfriend about this very thing, and I just find phone calls to be obtrusive and annoying. If you think about it, a phone call (in theory) requires me to be actively listening, thinking about responses, in most cases holding the device, which restricts what I am currently doing, etc. I rarely answer my phone, and I even more rarely make phone calls.

     

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    F.X. Martegan (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 8:05am

    Goes both ways

    One has to wonder at the reaction. This may come as a shocker to some, but the job market out there is pretty rough at the moment, and for all anyone knows the other party had possible interviews, possible job fairs, anything. The email could have also been mistyped; maybe it was supposed to read "I'll call when YOU'RE available." There's never been a mistake made while typing before, has there?

    Another thing that's been noticed is this is very much a case of "Do as I say", etc. Everyone is so busy, Caller ID and Voice Mail are nice tools to have, but if YOU make a phone call, well, the other party better damn well be available for YOU to speak with, regardless of what they may be doing.

    It's a double edged sword. And here's a newsflash: EVERYONE is busy these days. Working, trying to work, looking for ways to try and work. Everyone is busy, everyone has only a certain amount of time.

    Me? Conversations like this make me wonder how in the world anything got done back in the 1950's or 60's. People were busy then, too, but gee, they had time to take a call or return one.

    Amazing, huh?

     

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    SUNWARD (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 8:07am

    gets things done

    people don't like answering phone calls because they have to do something. Emails can be put off - I haven't read it yet. But phone calls must be answered then and there.

    So most people will never pick up a phone. They will let it go to voice mail.

    One phone call is much more effective than sending emails or text messages back and forth.

     

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    Thanatos, Mar 24th, 2011 @ 8:16am

    I have a lowly 500 minute plan on my cell phone, with the 5 family and friends thing from the old Alltel which grandfathered in when Verizon took over. The MOST that I have ever used is 40 minutes in a month. I also have no long distance plan on my home phone. I don't make phone calls! Almost everything that I have to say to anyone is send via email, text, IM, Facebook or Twitter.

    I LOATHE talking on a phone and avoid it as much as humanly possible.

     

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    Modplan (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 8:16am

    The same point about being impolite was made on QI, have fun tasting one of the funniest shows American citizens:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xXSw07zrio

     

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    Gill Bates, Mar 24th, 2011 @ 8:16am

    Really?

    "Phone Calls Are So Last Century"

    Then why is VOIP increasing exponentially?
    Why are businesses integrating softphones & unified comms?

     

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    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 8:17am

    First reaction

    My first reaction to this article was "Meh, society adapts around a new ubiquitous technology, so what?".

    Then again in other areas there's so much "railing at the waves" that goes on at exactly this effect it makes it a somewhat more interesting observation......

     

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    NikeHerc (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 8:18am

    phone vs. IM

    Phone calls have been replaced, in large measure, where I work by an instant messenger app. IM results in large numbers of people thinking you need to respond to them instantly! The phone, OTOH, still gives a busy signal when a second caller tries to reach me.

    I'll stick with the phone, thank you very much.

     

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    Joe Publius (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 8:18am

    As a born call screener, I feel like technology has actually caught up with me. I've never liked having to make or answer calls, mainly because I rarely have anything urgent to say*. Text messaging is a miracle for me. I can send the usually brief messages I do need to make to people in a less urgent format, which again is the majority of my messages.

    No occasionally awkward gaugings on how and when to end the call,just the info going out, and me getting a response when the receiver can send one.

    *Appreciate the irony that now my work is pretty phone-centric.

     

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    The Devil's Coachman (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 8:27am

    Re: Male?

    My wife and two daughters communicate almost exclusively via text messaging, and Facebook. The occasional voice calls are few and far between, and usually reserved for urgent matters or emotionally charged situations, where text messaging just can't convey that effectively enough. I don't remember the last time I actually called the wife from anywhere, about anything, and honestly think that is a good thing. We have only a few members of my family who are voice-centric, and I respect that, and their reasons for feeling so. I like the lack of immediacy inherent in texting, at least as far as our usage goes, and the forced conciseness makes getting to the point mandatory. This says nothing about the waste of time spent while on the phone thinking about a reply, or trying to remember a pertinent fact, which texting gives you the ability to complete at leisure. So no, I don't think this is a male thing only. I have always resented the past perception that if the phone rings, you must answer it, or at least screen the caller ID, and texting is a good solution to that non-existent problem.

     

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    Greg G (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 8:34am

    Re: Re: Re: Can you hear me now?

    I find that if I ask someone if they're busy first, we can schedule time to talk to each other, rather than a straight phone call. It helps a lot more in respecting both party's time.

    Agreed. If I actually initiate a call (rare) then I always ask the person I call if they're busy and if they have a few minutes. If they are, they say so, but also typically state they can call me back in 30 minutes or give me a later time for that eventhing or something.

    Respect each others time and there should be no issues.

     

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    stderr (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 8:35am

    What of the annoying telemarketer?

    If it means the end of the daily barrage of prerecorded phone calls and pestering telemarketers, then three cheers for social networking. I'm not nave am I?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 24th, 2011 @ 8:35am

    Funny. Carry your phone everywhere but bitch at people that dare call. Time for that checkup I think.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 24th, 2011 @ 9:06am

    Re: Male?

    :D

    I'm a female who has hated the phone for years. Not the social aspect of it but the interruption or...surprise attack aspect of a ringing phone.

    I think this 'scheduled call' stuff started more when answering machines and caller ID came onto the scene. And prior to the US Do Not Call List, the phone, for me anyway, was a way for anyone to intrude incessantly, which increased my hate for the phone. These days if someone calls, I don't know the number and they don't leave a message, they don't exist.

    I'm better at writing, not so fast on my feet in person, sometimes terrified to make a remark that hurts or is stupid. There is something to be said for the immediacy of true conversation, but it's like anything else - compatibility on a personal level. Some you can talk to for hours and some you can't wait for the doorbell to ring or the stove to catch fire or ANYTHING that will make the call stop, hah.

    I just realized that my reasons for disliking the phone are similar to those for not having a Facebook account. And that it's more like nagging or obligation than interruption that bothers.

     

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    vilain (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 9:14am

    Still stuck in the 20th century

    I agree that a phone call is inherently intrusive either at home or on the go. As a rule I don't answer my stupid cell phone unless I recognize the number. Business calls will leave a VM if it's important. Once I stopped hearing a phone ringing as an automatic "Answer me! I'm important", I looked at other means of communication. And I don't feel I'm at the beck and call of a device in my pocket. Don't text or want to pay for it, so that's not an option.

    All of my family still have a phone but only 50% have a computer. So email isn't for everyone, but that's what I tend to use. If I had a smart phone, I suppose Twitter or SMS would replace that, but email however 20th century still is my fallback. If I need immediate communication, a phone call is still the only thing.

     

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    Planespotter (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 9:16am

    Re: Really?

    It's called "presence", new VOIP systems not only allow people to talk to each other, they also let you know if someone is behind their desk, what building or office they are in based on VLAN/IP identification, whether they are available for IM/Texting and also emails answer machine messages straight to your email inbox. Having spent a few days talking to a company that have recently installed a new system that provides everything just mentioned they report back that internall calls have dropped to virtually nothing, and most people (reception desk excluded) don't answer their phone but pick up their messages via their inbox.

    People still think that they have to have a phone, give it 10-20 years and they'll be gone.

     

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    Steve R. (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 9:17am

    Phone Intrusiveness

    Several people have commented on the intrusiveness of phone calls including disrupting the person receiving the phone call. Many people, including myself, can passively communicate through email and/or identify their availability to communicate as with Google chat.

    My contribution to this thread is the role of voice mail and the answering machine. It used to be that a ringing phone demanded answering. You didn't know who was at the other end or what the call was about.

    Today the person receiving a phone call does not feel compelled to answer it for a variety or reasons. There is Caller ID, so you get a sense of who may be calling. As for the proverbial dinner phone call,ignore it. The answering machine is there to take any message.

     

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    weneedhelp (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 9:25am

    WOW

    Really? I have a group of friends from childhood that we all just randomly call each other every 2 or three months or so, and I love it. Yes they may call at times I am busy, but sometimes you just need to make time. They were instrumental players in my youth and deserve that respect. With my current group of friends, ill get an im to call me or meet me here, but its rare to have full blown "conversations" through electronic means. Maybe that's the problem nowadays. Everyone is so disconnected from each other. Typing on a keyboard does not, and will never replace the human interaction of a phone call. Its so sterile and separate. How sad really.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 24th, 2011 @ 9:28am

    I too, for years have viewed the phone as a "necessary evil". I hate a phone.

    Were it not for work requiring a phone I would have dumped it years ago and got rid of the aggravation. When I moved, like others are doing, I ditched the landline. Why in present day circumstances should I pay for a wiring insurance charge? My place isn't even wired for a phone.

    I found my bill much cheaper by going to cell phone. My bill dropped by 2/3 of what it was with the land line. I got the very basic plan. I don't need internet on the phone.

    Telemarketers are beating down the doors of the cell phones. I hate that too, they are wasting my time with something I don't want and call often enough that I look at the long ring times as battery drain. I refuse to answer them and just turn the ringer off. I view them as verbal spam and like vilian I won't answer a number I don't know already. If it's not in my phone bank, forget it, it ain't happening.

    Like some of the others, I find I use the SMS far more than the actual phone. It's more like email and will wait till you get to it. It's not going anywhere.

    Because of all the spam in the past years that circulated the net, I tend not to use email. I don't give my email out except to family. I won't open images sent unless I know they are coming ahead of time. I don't click on links in email. period.

    I hate the jarring ring of the phone demanding my attention when I'm up to my neck in some problem solving. Were it not for a few people I would be ditching the phone all together.

     

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    Planespotter (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 9:31am

    Re: phone vs. IM

    Do you not have an option to say you are unavailable?

     

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    Planespotter (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 9:31am

    Re: phone vs. IM

    Do you not have an option to say you are unavailable?

     

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    PuggUgly, Mar 24th, 2011 @ 9:48am

    depends

    Since my role at work includes tech support - my day is filled with "random" phone calls and emails. What I have found is that after work, I really don't want to talk on the phone that much, or text/IM, email - I would rather have a face-to-face conversation (when possible). The fun part is most of my friends do prefer to use text messaging rather than burn minutes talking.

    Right now, there are probably 4 or 5 people I talk to on the phone outside of work (family and a couple friends). Where a face-to-face conversation is not possible I would prefer a phone call over text. I guess to me that just feels to much like I'm still tied to a keyboard. At least on the phone, I can use a headset and not be tied to one spot and my hands are still free.

     

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  42.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 24th, 2011 @ 9:52am

    Re: Re: phone vs. IM

    Besides the point. IMs/texts/etc expect you to drop your entire life to answer them NOW.

     

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  43.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 24th, 2011 @ 9:54am

    Re: Re: Re: phone vs. IM

    Why else would people text and drive? Because "I love you baby" is so important and can't wait 5 minutes.

     

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    halley (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 9:56am

    Re: Can you hear me now?

    "I get that it's necessary sometimes, such as job interviews, ..."

    Occasionally some company recruiting for some new project will ping me by email, and if it looks like there might be something interesting, I reply with a basic request to read their casual summary on what their project is. Usually the recruiter jumps that tiny shred of a response and wants to set up a phone call... and I immediately lose interest.

    If the recruiter can't introduce the concept with text that's not already on the company website's front page, that I can read at my leisure, they either are (1) too big and old to handle any other way, or (2) too young and small to have anything organized to a project plan that's more than an elevator pitch.

     

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    Dom, Mar 24th, 2011 @ 10:05am

    Slave to the Machine

    Personally, I have a deep seated anxiety around talking on the phone. I don't know who it is, what they want, I might talk too loud, what if I'm not prepared for the call, etc etc.

    But these weren't issues that I had when I was younger, pre-mobile phone.

    I think that the anxiety/hatred of phone calls comes from having cell phones always on our person. Often, there's no distinction between office/work life and home/personal life. Wherever we go, we can answer that email on our blackberry/android/iphone, we can take that call from Singapore, or we can easily respond to someone's "important" text message.

    I really think that it's the social expectation that we are available via mobile/text/im/facebook/twitter/etc that leads to the "hatred" of reasonable communication.

    The more I think about my mobile, the more I feel like a slave to it, and to everyone contacting me. Contact doesn't happen when I am available (M-F, 8-5pm), it happens on their time. I have no control over disruptions throughout my day.

    I wonder how insane everyone would think I was if I got rid of my phone, and only used a landline at my home.

     

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    Rekrul, Mar 24th, 2011 @ 10:15am

    Email is convenient in that it can be sent at any time of the day or night without having to worry that you're going to disturb the other person. Of course then you have to wait for a response and when one doesn't come for a couple days, you start to wonder if you message actually went through or if maybe it tripped some obscure spam filter. If someone wants help with a problem, such as something computer related, you have to make a suggestion, then wait to hear the results, make another suggestion, wait, etc.

    Talking to someone on the phone is much more immediate. You can ask a question and get the answer right away. Plus, it's nice to hear the other person's voice. I have 4-5 friends that I regularly talk to. Either they call me, or I call them. No times, although there is a typical time range that we use.

    I don't even have a cell phone. I used to have a prepaid one, but I hardly ever used it and they took away all my minutes when I missed the renewal date, so I never bothered to re-activate it.

    Like most everyone, I hate when I get calls from telemarketers, but I don't mind when friends call.

     

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    randizzle3000, Mar 24th, 2011 @ 10:30am

    Asynchronous communication

    I think the fact that more people have more ways to communicate now lets us all participate in asynchronous communication (in addition to being able to multitask as other posters have noted). We don't really want to be available 24/7 for synchronous communication.

     

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    Mastro (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 10:36am

    I'm on the same page as you. I hate phone calls. Txt me or email me or even IM me so I can get to you when I am ready. Or evaluate what you want to discuss and decide if I want to ignore you all together.

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 10:46am

    Re: Male?

    Mike, I believe, following this post, that you are not a woman and probably don't live with one.


    Heh. I even mentioned my wife in the post.

    And she talks on the phone a lot less than I do.

    In short, your sample is probably very biased.


    Not my sample. It was the article I linked to. I just applied my own anecdote to that. But it seems like many others agree.

     

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    known coward, Mar 24th, 2011 @ 10:48am

    Re: Really?

    "Then why is VOIP increasing exponentially?
    Why are businesses integrating softphones & unified comms?"


    because VoIP is much cheaper than traditional voice. Also if you can get rid of your voice lines and use data for voice, video, and data, your last mile costs go down dramaticly,

     

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    Jeremy7600 (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 10:58am

    Re:

    Considering my phone is 2% phone and 98% computer, no "checkup" needed, except maybe for you to realize that I have a browser I can access anywhere, maps I can access anywhere, a GPS unit I can use for geocaching/trail tracking, and access to video sites, my music, and about 5000 things I'd rather being doing with my phone than placing phone calls. I, personally, didn't buy a phone with a keyboard so I could make phone calls on it. I txt my SO about 50 times a day, and talk in person when we get home.

    Might be the case with Mike as well, I'm pretty sure he recently got an Android phone.

    So, if the phone in my pocket was only capable of phone calls and nothing else, you might have an argument there.

    My phone is also: A flashlight, camera, camcorder, radio (via internet), calendar, work and personal email device, remote control for VLC on my computer, stargazing aid, a LightSaber, a Looooooooooongcat, a wifi analyzer, a stud finder, a gaming machine, an alarm clock, a barcode scanner, a calculator, an SSH/telnet client, a photo gallery, a memo pad, in car navigation, paypal payment/receipts device, a spirit level, a stopwatch, a comic strip viewer and also lets me check the weather.

    So, how about them phonecalls?

     

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    Glen (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 11:01am

    Re: I agree...and also

    I'm in the same age group as you, and my rule of thumb is: I take the call if it's convenient for me. If it's important, they'll call back or leave a voicemail. No voicemail means it wasn't important or was a misdial, and I can treat the call as if it never happened.

    Typically, the voicemail I get are things like "I have a quick question for you, please call me back." If it's so quick, they could have left it on the message. Now I have to call them only to get their voicemail, the greeting ironically asking me to leave a detailed message. Several rounds of inefficient phone tag ensue. How 1980s.

    Seriously, email is far better for most non-critical communication.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 24th, 2011 @ 11:08am

    Re: Re: I agree...and also

    I think I'd be ok without a "phone"
    http://j.mp/el1LwH

    I am a 40 yo guy with no landline. Notice the total number and how many days left in the cycle.

    Phone calls may not always be rude but they are distracting..
    Ironically, I work on an IT Helpdesk answering phone calls.

     

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    CCnocarboncopy, Mar 24th, 2011 @ 11:17am

    all good but not all the time

    I only find telemarketers are the only ones to annoy me.
    Any other calls on home or cell are fine because I have the option to turn off said Phones (AKA Telephones).
    I would think you as a society would want to move forward IE voice and video but alas everyone seems to being taking the easy route and text instead of letting someone know the conviction of what you are saying with your voice.
    P.S. If its not illegal in your state limit the cell phone use because it dangerous especially text.

     

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    chris (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 11:29am

    Re: Can you hear me now?

    If I'm listening to music in my car, watching TV/movie at home, at work, hanging out with a group of friends...if I'm on the phone, I have to be on the phone. If I'm doing something else, the person on the other end of the convo will know that I'm distracted.

    i agree that the phone can take up concentration that could be better used elsewhere, but not all the time.

    it really depends on the task you are doing and the telephone call.

    an example of the type of task would be driving. assuming that you aren't juggling the handset and the stick shift while parallel parking, you can drive and talk at the same time with little incident. my wife and i talk on the phone a lot, mostly while she is driving somewhere for work, which she does a lot.

    an example of the type of conversation would be routine calls. i used to work in tech support and after a couple of months i would do everything on autopilot while day dreaming or surfing the web. on several occasions i would "wake up" during a call and realize i had been on the phone with someone for 10 minutes and i had no idea what i was talking to them about. i would have to look at my notes in the ticketing system to figure out what we had been doing since there was no way to go "back to sleep" and pick up where i left off.

    Texting, email, IM, FB, et all...allow me to do other things while engaging in some interaction with you.

    my complaint about texting when i am working (or gaming) is that it seems stupid to text on my phone when i am sitting in front of a computer. the screen and keyboard are so small that they take up all of my concentration for that short time it takes to make a reply.

    don't get me wrong, i love that small device when it's in my pocket and i am out and about. however, when i am seated in front of 3 screens at 1080p and an ergonomic 104 key keyboard, i feel dumb reaching into my pocket to squint at my mobile.

    for calls i have an elaborate rube goldberg system of voip trunks and forwards to answer calls on my computer, but i have yet to conquer SMS in a similarly reliable fashion.

     

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    chris (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 11:37am

    Re: Re: Male?

    I like the lack of immediacy inherent in texting, at least as far as our usage goes, and the forced conciseness makes getting to the point mandatory.

    my 15 year old daughter and 20 year old nephew have yet to catch on to this fact. they seem to have IM and SMS ass backwards, as i get texts like "hey dad" and "sup" from them on a regular basis.

    it took me a few years, but i finally broke my mother from calling me to see if i got her email.

     

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    Roland, Mar 24th, 2011 @ 11:48am

    exploring history

    I'm a history fan. If you explore the history of the Bell System, you'll find telephones were first introduced for use by businesses. There was a lot of initial resistance to putting telephones in private residences, for exactly this reason. It also spurred the use of answering machines, when they appeared after the Carterfone decision.

     

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    Cipher-0, Mar 24th, 2011 @ 11:56am

    Re:

    My cell phone is for my convenience, not for every dope who thinks they have something important to say. Phone calls don't produce the evidence trail (by default) that email, SMS and IM does.

     

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    Jesse Townley (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 12:48pm

    I'm shocked...

    You all DO know that when your cell phone rings, you aren't required to answer it, right? You can even (gasp!) see the number of the caller in most cases.



    (Me, I'm another confirmed call screener. If it's important, they'll leave a message or get ahold of me via text or e-mail)

    First world problems FTW!

     

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    trish, Mar 24th, 2011 @ 1:05pm

    Voicemail

    that's why i love voicemail. I find that when I call someone, most of the time, I wish they wouldn't answer so I can leave a message. lol

     

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    DannyB (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 2:08pm

    Mobile Phones make you TOO EASY to reach

    I have my mobile phone literally within arms reach 24 / 365. When I'm in the shower it is more like about 3 feet away.

    My point is that the few people I selectively give my mobile number to have access to potentially interrupt me 24 / 365.

    This is fundamentally different than landlines from last century.

     

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    Chargone (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 3:31pm

    Re: Re: I agree...and also

    amusing fact: in NZ at least, no one leaves voice mail, because no one Checks their voice mail (well, ok, 'no one' is probably an exageration, but this is very common) because you get charged money to check it and most phone calls aren't worth it.

    mind you, a lot of people refuse to leave messages on answering machines and will just hang up and try again later, too. well, for personal calls, anyway. at least in part due to the whole phone tag thing, i think.

    (oddly, for some baffling reason, i have friends who refuse to call my landline despite the fact that i spend the vast majority of my time at home, prefering instead to ring my cell. never mind that i bought it purely because various groups insisted on sending notifications by txt message and failing at e-mail. note that these people live in the same city as me, so the landline call would be Free if made from a residential landline, and Still cheaper than calling my mobile from theirs if they're not on the same network i am (most of them aren't). last i checked anyway. this despite the fact that if they're using the cell network they may as well just send me a txt message most of the time :S)

    mind you, NZ's always had a high usage of phones... some years back they were upgrading the exchanges, had some japanese technicians over helping out... the japanese guys thought they were conducting a load test because of how much work the equipment was having to do. imagine their surprise to discover that it was just normal usage. our exchanges apparantly run close to capacity a lot of the time. heh. (so said my friend who works for the phone company, anyway.)

     

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    Chargone (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 3:37pm

    Re: Re:

    if only the lightsaber feature actually behaved like one (of course, that would require the phone to be shaped compleatly differently)

     

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    keith (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 3:42pm

    eh - i think you are overblowing the issue. the phone call hasn't died, communication has just become more efficient.

    its more efficient to text someone 'be there in 5', etc.

    but the voice call won't die - after all, sometimes it's just nice to hear someone elses voice.

     

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    Chargone (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 3:48pm

    Re:

    *blinks*
    ... i find this bizzare.

    mind you, NZ has this thing where the phone companies are obligated to wire up any new house that's built on a road that already has a phone line (if you live waaaaaaaaaaaay out in the countryside you have to help pay for running a cable out there though), and i believe standard practice is to accept emergency services calls even from 'disconnected' lines (they certainly take them from cell phones that otherwise shouldn't be able to make a call for various reasons). they're also not Allowed to charge for local calls from residentual land lines. though they do charge something like NZ$50 or so a year for the service plan.

    this is a legacy of the state owned telephone company being privitized (with heavy regulation).

    oddly, we don't really have to deal with telemarketers beyond the fact that even door to door salesmen seem to like to make apointments rather than just show up (and thus get in the habit of calling people in the area they're going to to say they're going to show up so they know who not to even bother with etc. they're actually less pushy on the phone than you'd expect). Surveys and polls, on the other hand...

    mind you, i should really just add this to the pile of 'ways NZ is weird'.

     

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  66.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 24th, 2011 @ 6:37pm

    "but the whole phenomenon of the random personal phone call is pretty much becoming a thing of the past."

    So you think phone use is going down? You think all those people driving cars set a time to talk? All the folks in the movies set that time to talk?

    People are on phones more now than ever in the past.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 24th, 2011 @ 9:17pm

    Re: WOW

    My nephew just called to tell us he proposed to his GF and she said yes.

    That was a good phone call. :)

    Almost immediately after we hung up the phone rang again, this time some Unavailable number that calls once a day, never leaves a message, and will never be answered.

    That call is why I hate a ringing phone.

     

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    nasch (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 9:28pm

    Re: Re:

    I agree, Mike was talking about the interruption. But the first commenter, Trizz, is talking not just about the interruption, but about talking on the phone at all. And the reason he doesn't like talking on the phone is because he doesn't like giving a conversation his full attention. I think there is definitely some truth, as well as hyperbole, to AC's point.

     

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    nasch (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 9:34pm

    Re: I agree...and also

    If someone leaves a voicemail, phones offer that too, but so many people simply hang up when they hear the voicemail prompt that I rarely have the option available to me.

    And that in turn is because so many people don't listen to their voice mail. I don't know why these people don't record a greeting that indicates they don't listen to their voicemail so don't bother leaving a message. That seems at least as rude as calling someone unexpectedly. After all, if you don't want to take my call, you have that option, but it's annoying to leave a message only to have the person call back and have no idea what I called about. I don't then have the option of unwasting my time.

     

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    nasch (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 9:36pm

    Re: Great Article

    If you think about it, a phone call (in theory) requires me to be actively listening, thinking about responses, in most cases holding the device, which restricts what I am currently doing, etc.

    Yeah, it really sucks to have to pay attention to the person I'm conversing with! Wait, what?

     

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    nasch (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 9:45pm

    Scheduled phone calls

    I've very rarely had a scheduled personal phone call. Business yes, skype video call yes, but not a friend or family member setting up a time to call. They just call, and either I'm available or I'm not. If I pick up but don't have much time to talk, I ask them to call another time. If it's someone I don't even want to talk to, I just don't answer. I don't see what the big deal is.

     

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    Jack, Mar 25th, 2011 @ 5:55am

    Phones

    Before the cellphone and computer their were two way to communicate, snail mail or a phone call. Phone calls were mainly local calls because of the expense of long distance calls and actually writing a letter with a real pen and ink was considered more personal and private. Today almost everyone has a cellphone and even the expense of buying the latest cellphone as they are developed about once a month and marketed as "gotta have this new model."

    Phones are highly abuse today by all age groups by people that talk and text on them while driving and people that are so involved with the phone stuck in their ear they get run down by on coming traffic while failing to realise they are walking into the street.
    Wherever you go today you see the majority of people with a cellphone stuck in their ear like the world is interested in every minute of their life and what they are doing.

    Personally we may be considered old fashioned but we still rely on our home phone for all calls. This is due to the fact that if we are out at a restaurant we do not want to be bothered and since our children are grown and on their own we do not have to leave messages where we can be contacted.

    I myself like to see the people I discuss things with face to face when possible, long distance does not make this possible but I find that email is the next best thing for instant contact and it gives the person leeway to decide when they have the time to read and answer the email. When I make plans to do some activity with someone I make the plan and get off the phone so conversation can be held face to face.

    People also look at all this electronic junk as a vital service if any national disaster takes place but in any big national emergency it's this electronic junk that will fail first.

    It always amazes me how people especially Americans are so willing to suck up to the latest electronic junk coming out of big business at such high cost to consumers.

     

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    Josef Anvil (profile), Mar 25th, 2011 @ 7:55am

    Touched a nerve?

    It took quite some time to get to read through all the comments on this one.

    Are phone calls so last century? Nope.

    For all the changes in behavior surrounding the use of the phone, voice isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Facetime and Skype are clear examples of the fact that people are looking for ways to improve voice by integrating it with video.

    Texting and IMs are here to stay as well. Text based alternatives have their place just like voice does. What is socially acceptable when it comes to voice is a whole different matter, as it varies greatly depending on age, economics, technical ability and probably a bunch of other factors.

    For a lot a people with unlimited text mobile plans, its just more cost effective to text. For people who value their personal time, it may be rude to call them unannounced. The long and the short of it is that our communications tools are developing at such a rate that is hard to make accurate generalizations about them, but it's fair to say that we no longer use the phone the way we used to.

    If you really think that phone calls are so last century, then I challenge someone to put out a mobile device like an iPhone that doesn't have voice capabilities and see if it can displace mobile phones in the market.

     

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    PW (profile), Mar 25th, 2011 @ 9:33am

    Communication device

    These days, people have phones with them at all times.



    I'd consider replacing the word "phones" with "communications devices" and then there's less astonishment over this evolving status quo. Just like people thought that phones would rid of us of the telegraph and email would rid us of "snail mail", what we have instead found is that each mode of communication has its place. While some of what we did with one mode we now do with another, there are situations in which each has its place. Even between TXT and email, there are times I find one more suitable than the other even though most people I know carry devices that support both.

    Somewhat ironically, while typing this note a friend called me out of the blue and I got really frustrated :) Forced him to schedule a time :)

     

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    Derek Kerton (profile), Mar 25th, 2011 @ 12:06pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Can you hear me now?

    I find many people offer me that courtesy, that is, they ask:

    "Have you got a few minutes to talk right now?" at the initiation of the phone call.

    However, I have found that very few people actually mean it. Because when I answer honestly that it is a bad time, often they simply continue anyway with a "brief version" of what they wanted to say...which probably is just the full version in a hurried tone, and is almost always more than a "few minutes".

     

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    Derek Kerton (profile), Mar 25th, 2011 @ 12:09pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Can you hear me now?

    I agree with the article, and take it one step further. If find that I now push many of my face-to-face meetings to phone (or Skype) meetings. This saves me enormous time in driving, parking, shaving, dressing, etc.

    Meanwhile, I have pushed most of my former phone calls to email or SMS. This has the added benefit of creating a searchable record.

    Essentially, we're looking for greater efficiency, time-shifting, and asynchronicity whenever possible. I basically want to PVR my communications.

     

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    nasch (profile), Mar 25th, 2011 @ 1:21pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Can you hear me now?

    Is that business, personal, or both?

     

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    nasch (profile), Mar 25th, 2011 @ 1:22pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Can you hear me now?

    Maybe you should stop answering your phone when you don't have time to talk. That probably sounds really snarky, but I don't mean it that way. :-)

     

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    rochrist (profile), Mar 25th, 2011 @ 1:44pm

    So basically, what you're saying is, you're a dick.

     

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    Derek Kerton (profile), Mar 25th, 2011 @ 2:10pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Can you hear me now?

    I agree with the article, and take it one step further. If find that I now push many of my face-to-face meetings to phone (or Skype) meetings. This saves me enormous time in driving, parking, shaving, dressing, etc.

    Meanwhile, I have pushed most of my former phone calls to email or SMS. This has the added benefit of creating a searchable record.

    Essentially, we're looking for greater efficiency, time-shifting, and asynchronicity whenever possible. I basically want to PVR my communications.

     

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    Derek Kerton (profile), Mar 25th, 2011 @ 2:12pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Can you hear me now?

    Oh, but I DO have time to talk. It just depends on the person/subject/prioritization/etc.

    As a consultant, if it were a existing or prospective client on the line, I'd find the time.

     

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    Derek Kerton (profile), Mar 25th, 2011 @ 2:30pm

    Trend In Dropping Call Quality

    Nobody has yet mentioned the fact that the quality of the average voice call has been dropping steadily since 1990. This is, of course, in parallel with the increasing portion of calls that take place over cellular.

    We all know that cellular calls are dropped, have voice artifacts, are hard to hear the other person, and more often occur when one or both people are in noisier environments than their home kitchen or workplace.

    Basically, there has been a steady decrease in the ease of communicating over voice lines. It is now often difficult 'work' to just have a phone call - almost like talking in a foreign language: ears strained, full concentration, loud enunciation. At the same time, the newer Internet options have emerged. I propose both factors are contributing to the trend.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  83.  
    identicon
    Gene Cavanaugh, Mar 25th, 2011 @ 9:09pm

    Random phone calls

    I agree. I am a patent attorney, and when someone calls while I am working on IP, no problem; I have trained myself to accept an interruption without stress.
    However, I also do electrical work for "the kids", and am often in some sort of a meeting as well.
    If I am in a dark attic, on my stomach, running a wire, I don't even appreciate a call from family, unless it really is time-dependent stuff. I get pretty incensed with strangers calling.
    Email, on the other hand, is never a problem. Even text messages don't really bother me (but, I hold off reading them until a more convenient time!).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  84.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Mar 25th, 2011 @ 10:21pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Can you hear me now?

    Do you find it depends more on who's calling, or what it's about? For me usually caller ID tells me whether I want to answer.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  85.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Mar 25th, 2011 @ 10:23pm

    Re: Random phone calls

    You don't have to have your phone with you, do you? I mean some people do, but if not just take it off or turn it off when you know you don't want any calls.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  86.  
    icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), Mar 30th, 2011 @ 2:45am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Can you hear me now?

    Sadly, caller ID won't cut it. Lots of lucrative calls come in as mystery numbers. So we have to pick up and hear what's on the other end of the ahoy-hoy machine.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  87.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Mar 30th, 2011 @ 12:48pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Can you hear me now?

    D'oh!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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