Why don’t we talk on the phone any more?

In the early 1980s, my dad, brother and I would watch Doctor Who, religiously, every Saturday afternoon.

(Religiously is perhaps the wrong word, because being Jewish, we shouldn’t have been watching TV at all on a Saturday afternoon. But anyway…)

My dad would sit in his special armchair, with me aged seven or so on his knee, and my big brother squashed in beside us. This was a good set-up as it made sure we were well protected from the Daleks and any other aliens who might wish the Doctor ill.

One day, though, we were out on Saturday afternoon, and we realised that we hadn’t remembered to video that day’s episode. My mum was at home but – disaster – we didn’t have any cash to phone her. What to do?

You remember how it was with red telephone boxes… you didn’t have to put your money in till the person at the other end answered? You’d hear ‘Hello!’ and then you’d put push in your 5p.

So, we dialled our home number, and when my mum said ‘Hello?’ we simultaneously shouted ‘DOCTOR WHO!’ before we were cut off.

Just to be sure, we phoned again.

‘Hello?’ said my mum, sounding a little bemused this time. ‘DOCTOR WHO!’ we shouted over her.

The third time, her ‘Hello’ was starting to sound slightly hysterical…

It worked, though. When we got home, my long-suffering mother had understood the message and duly recorded the episode.

None of which has got anything to do with why we don’t talk on the phone any more – it was just a quirky story about telephones.

The thing is, I think if you’d said to us that day:

‘In the future, everyone is going to carry tiny rectangular computers in their pocket. If they want to communicate with someone they’ll be able to choose either to:

a) dial their number and talk
or
b) type a message to them on a miniature keyboard and wait for them to reply…’

…and if you’d then asked us which method people were likely to choose more often, I’m pretty certain we would have answered ‘a)’.

We would possibly have added, ‘Derrrr’… except I don’t think that sound had been invented at the time.

But we would, of course, have been wrong.

So why do people (including myself) treat most phonecalls as stressful, intrusive and unnecessary? I really don’t get it. And yet, I really do embrace it.

The other day at work, I needed to contact the IT department. Being reasonably new to the company, I asked a colleague how to do so.

She helpfully picked up my phone, dialled IT’s extension, then handed me the receiver, leaving me in a state of panic.

‘Oh my god. She’s expecting me to talk to them? I didn’t want their phone number – I wanted their email address! This is sheer madness!’

Luckily, the IT department clearly felt the same way, because the call went to voicemail and I was able to put the receiver down (without actually leaving a message, obviously), find out their email address and write to them instead – like any sensible person.

It only took them 24 hours to get back to me. What more could you ask for?

*******

So, do you dislike using the phone, and why?

Or do you love doing so, and hate that no one picks up any more? 

Please let me know in the comments section.

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7 thoughts on “Why don’t we talk on the phone any more?

  1. weekbyweekbaby

    I have this same conversation with my friends all the time (through Whatts app naturally!) Oh how I miss talking on the phone. I also miss the good ol’ days of meeting in person. I bet I’d miss pigeon mail if I’d been around to use it. Technology really is taking over and I’m not sure it’s always for the best.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  2. Anthony

    In order to get 2,000 people to do a political poll, one pollster recently told me he’d had to call 30,000 people (not himself, obviously – they have staff). But it just shows how little people want to talk on the phone.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  3. Geoff

    Can you tell me why my friends in London are so shy of the phone ?

    In the country where I live you know, people are on phones for hours, texts and
    Whatsapp.

    I think it’s a hangover in UK from Post
    WW2 rationing ( also wartime posters ” careless talk costs lives”)
    and the old time charges per minute and the three ‘ pips’ on ‘trunk’ calls meaning ‘time’s up’

    Plus a very British reticence as in
    ” NO SEX PLEASE WE’RE BRITISH”

    Like

    Reply
  4. feellikeagrownup Post author

    I’m not sure. Up until the advent of text messaging, we were all on the phone constantly so it’s hard to see it as a WW2 hangover! But there may be an element of British reserve in the idea of preferring to type a message rather than have a real-live chat. I wonder what Kate Fox (of ‘Watching the English’ has to say on the subject.

    Like

    Reply

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