No One Picks Up the Phone Anymore
No one picks up the phone anymore. Even many businesses do everything they can to avoid picking up the phone. Of the 50 or so calls I received in the last month, I might have picked up four or five times. The reflex of answering—built so deeply into people who grew up in 20th-century telephonic culture—is gone.
Telephone exchanges of that era were what the scholar Robert Hopper described as “not quite ritual, but routine to the extent that its appearance approaches ritual.” When the phone rang, everyone knew to answer and speak in “the liturgy of the national attitude.” Now, people have forgotten how to pick up, the words, when to sing.
There are many reasons for the slow erosion of this commons. The most important aspect is structural: There are simply more communication options. Text messaging and its associated multimedia variations are rich and wonderful: words mixed with emoji, Bitmoji, reaction gifs, regular old photos, video, links. Texting is fun, lightly asynchronous, and possible to do with many people simultaneously. It’s almost as immediate as a phone call, but not quite. You’ve got your Twitter, your Facebook, your work Slack, your email, FaceTimes incoming from family members. So many little dings have begun to make the rings obsolete.
From “Why No One Answers Their Phone Aymore” by Alexis C. Madrigal for The Atlantic; Image of Alexander Graham Bell speaking into the first telephone circa 1876
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