from the bye-bye-phone-calls dept
Consider: If I suddenly decide I want to dial you up, I have no way of knowing whether you're busy, and you have no idea why I'm calling. We have to open Schrodinger's box every time, having a conversation to figure out whether it's OK to have a conversation. Plus, voice calls are emotionally high-bandwidth, which is why it's so weirdly exhausting to be interrupted by one. (We apparently find voicemail even more excruciating: Studies show that more than a fifth of all voice messages are never listened to.)That last point is a really interesting one. One of the "features" of the "always on" society is the fact that we're actually ending up with better tools for managing our time -- and the "old" telephone system really doesn't fit into that setup. Thompson notes in the piece that he simply won't answer calls that aren't scheduled -- and I've been reaching the same stance lately myself. I actually find it odd when people call me without contacting me first to set up a time to call. If anything, it almost feels "rude."
The telephone, in other words, doesn't provide any information about status, so we are constantly interrupting one another. The other tools at our disposal are more polite. Instant messaging lets us detect whether our friends are busy without our bugging them, and texting lets us ping one another asynchronously. (Plus, we can spend more time thinking about what we want to say.) For all the hue and cry about becoming an "always on" society, we’re actually moving away from the demand that everyone be available immediately.
Of course, some of this could also be corrected by better technology -- such as allowing a phone to indicate some of your status, such as whether or not you're busy. Better yet, would be a system that automatically built in a scheduling feature if someone wanted to talk to you.