Sunday, August 8, 2010

Is My Phone Call To You Rude?

Something strange is going on.  My family has always called me the gadget guy.  Even my brother calls me ‘Inspector’ Gadget’.  So my love affair with all that is tech almost knows no bounds.  Still, sometimes changes occur that even I don’t fully understand and appreciate.

Are We Hanging Up on Each Other?telepone_hang-up

I remember a time when I was growing up where we had one telephone line and two phones, one in the kitchen and one in my parent’s bedroom.  The one in the kitchen had a a handset with a coiled connector that seemed like could stretch from the kitchen to the Safeway up the road.  My mom could carry on a conversation, cook dinner, wash dishes, clean the house and change my sister’s diapers all from that ‘kitchen’ phone.  Back then, when the phone rang, you sprinted to the phone.  There were no answering machines and you never knew, was that your best friend calling you to find out if you could go shoot some hoops or your Uncle Bill calling with news about your grandparent’s health. 
I would be on the phone with my buddies talking about ‘did you see that move that Jerry West made on Bill Russell?’ my Dad would inevitably yell from the den, “Get off the phone, someone important might be trying to call us”. 

Phone calls were important.  It was how you communicated.

I have been noticing a trend for several years now.  It began with the answering machine and accelerated with call waiting.  Fewer and fewer phone calls get answered.  Of greater interest, relatively few people call us on the ‘home line’.  More and more it is reserved for when we gather at the table to host a call on speakerphone with our relatives.  Almost all of the calls I make to my friends is on my mobile phone. 
I remember a time when mobile minutes were so expensive, I only gave out my home phone number.  Now, I have so many minutes accumulated and an unlimited text plan, I only give out my mobile number and often include, “you are welcome to text me”.  I must say that I still get a few puzzled looks from my age peers on that one, but folks I meet who are my children’s age seem to welcome it.

Texting generation doesn't share boomers' taste for talk
Today, I was reading an article published in the Washington Post entitled ‘For millennials, love is never asking them to call you back’ by Ian Shapira.

Check it out.  In this article, Shapira writes that a whole generation is growing up around the notion that phone calls are not simply inconvenient, they are a rude interruption of your day. 

I can relate to this.  When I am working on something, an article, spreadsheet, a presentation, the last thing I want to hear is the phone ring.  There is much debate within my company about the use of instant messenger.  Some love it, some hate it.  I hear from my boomer peers all the time, “I don’t want to be bothered with the instant messenger, if I want to talk with someone, I can just pick up the phone”.  The problem is way too often they are busy or away from their phones or on another call, so your call to them goes to voice mail.  So you leave a message hoping they call you back and at a time when you are not in the middle of doing something else.

So, if I need to talk with them, I end up using IM to see if they are available to talk, then exchange a brief dialogue to nail down a mutually convenient time if now is not.  Personally, almost consider it rude if people don’t use IM.  I am then forced to make a call with the risks associated with that or send them a formal calendar invite from email.

Texting just seems so much simpler.  You text, get across the essentials, then get back to what your were doing.  If a phone call is warranted, you check availability, then call.  Finally with Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, you can communicate much in the way of family updates in a much more robust fashion with photos and even video to share the experience.  People can view them at their convenience and to the degree that they want. 

I get it.  It is a strange new world we are living in (and getting stranger every day) for us boomers.  At times I feel like I have emigrated to a new land and I am calling back to my friends who are stuck back in the old worlds and simply refuse to make the journey.  Unfortunately, there will be fewer and fewer left behind so it is either make the journey to join the millennials on their home turf, or be stuck in a world where fewer and fewer people are willing to actually talk with you.

So, are my phone calls to you rude?  You tell me.

Let Freedom Ring (or in this case, make whatever sound texting does on your mobile device :-)

1 comment:

Grace said...

Making a telephone call is implicitly an act of rudeness. If I choose to answer the phone when it rings I have to stop whatever it is that I was doing at the moment and shift my focus to responding to it. So, by implication, the caller is saying that whatever it is that they want is more important than whatever it may be that the callee in engaged in.

And that may well be so, in which case the initial act of rudeness is excused. A call telling me that my sister was just injured in an auto accident would be what I consider a high value interruption. A phone call (on Tuesday) letting me know that dinner on Friday is going to be at 6:00 is low value.

I use a smart phone. And on that phone you can communicate with me via two different instant messaging programs, text message, Facebook and three different email addresses. Or you can make a telephone call. People who consistently make low value phone calls, instead of using a less interruptive choice when I know it is available to them, are very likely to be ignored if what I am currently involved in has any sort of importance to me. It is sort of a version of the little boy crying wolf.

I don't mind chatting on the phone (after all, I am a woman) and it is hard to carry on a conversation via text message. But please, don't call me (on Tuesday) simply to let me know that dinner on Friday is going to be at 6:00. I just did my nails and not messing them up has higher value than your call.