It's good to talk, Bob Hoskins used to tell us in those BT ads of the 90's.
Well Bob, apparently it's not anymore. A study out today shows that texting is now the more favoured means of communication - more so than phoning, meeting or tweeting.
After years of going up, for the first time ever, the amount of time we spend talking on our mobiles has now fallen by a whole billion minutes.
Some manners at last. Texting is far more polite than calling. In our crazy, modern, beeping, wireless-infested, blue-toothed world, with its endless forms of remote communication, picking up the phone and demanding such on-the-spot, here-and-now attention is hideously expectant. "Answer me now!" Screams the ringtone. It leapfrogs your inbox, it bypasses your priorities and it doesn't give a damn about your to-do-list.
I never answer my phone unless I'm expecting it to ring. Likewise, if I really must call someone myself, I send a polite email in advance and ask when they are free to talk.
Our working days are bombarded by distractions - every website has a pop up, every tweeter has a link to share, every website you've ever made a purchase from sends a weekly newsletter, every office employee under 30 sends group emails advertising for a flatmate. Knowing these challenges we face in juggling relentless demands for our attention, making a phone call is the equivalent of playing the joker. "I refuse to join the queue - I'm picking up the phone!" It is aggressive and reeks of entitlement.
Often, the reason I don't answer my phone is quite simply that it's at the bottom of my bag and I have my hands full. Or it's raining. I entrust my voicemail to manage all my phone's traffic. They leave a message. I call back when I've finished whatever I'm focussed on.
One. Thing. At. A. Time.
But some people call again! I've always felt that multiple missed calls expose an ugly paranoia about a person. I don't know any modern mobiles that don't register a missed call. So why do it again?! Whenever I see someone's called more than once in a single absence spell from my phone, I leave it at least 48 hours before calling them back. No it's not petty punishment. I consider it chartable therapy to train their patience. Phone's in the bag. Get your ego to deal with it.
Worse and ruder still is the person who calls but doesn't leave a message. It's a passive-aggressive manipulative power game. It's like flashing a peep of stocking and then running away. It's like the child in the playground who teases that they've got a secret but they won't tell you what. The non-message-leaver says: "There's my name on your screen. If you want to know why I called, you've got to call me back."
Today's study by Ofcom shows that 58% people now send a text at least once a day compared to the 47% who pick up the phone. This makes perfect sense. Rudeness aside, the phone is the most inefficient means of communication. It takes up the same amount of real time as face-to-face, yet it offers less than a tenth of the pleasure.
The best form of communication, I've always found, is at a bar or at a good table in a good restaurant. Anything less pleasurable and you may as well keep it strictly functional. What, when where. Save the vocal tapestry for a decent bottle of wine or three, during which my phone will be firmly at the bottom of my bag.
Call me old fashioned but I'll happily talk until dawn with all the complements to conversation like facial expression, sound effect, touch, pheremones and a nice tall bar stool. But without this backdrop, I'd prefer to limit my communication to all thumbs.
On the train this week, I overheard a girl call someone to tell them that she'd just sent a text! I can not think of any other single act which simultaneously wastes two people's time whilst also causing unnecessary noise pollution.
In a delightful (and useful) article in the Telegraph this week, Mary Killen offered advice for when someone takes a phone call in your presence: "Leave the room and go and read."
This is a marvellous idea. Anyone who is in mid-flow conversation - the qualitative face-to-face kind - and then allows a ringing phone carrying the voice of a disconnected third party to butt right in, quite frankly deserves to get usurped by a book.
The era of the mobile phone has created a culture of entitlement. The caller calls in their time and they expect you to give your time right then. How presumptuous! We need to take back control of our time back and tell them to text!
My voicemail tells people to email. My Skype status says 'scheduled calls only.' Any software that has any sort of messenger on it is sent firmly on its way to the trash. My phone number isn't on my business cards. It isn't in the footer of my email and I don't take kindly when pressed for my phone number when booking theatre tickets, registering for Groupon or buying a sofa. If those lengthy online payment forms insist on one, I type 123456789.
Now if you'll excuse me, with that off my chest, I'm going to go and make another piece of toast. And when I've done that, I'm going to turn my phone on.
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