Ring ring, the Phone Call is Ill

“Are you sitting down? Okay good.”

Remember the days before phones were so damn portable? Remember the phone call? The real ones, the long ones. All those hours spent sitting, receiver to the face, talking away our demons into the curved plastic, twirling the chord with the left hand. We now live in a world where we’re attached to those little boxes called cells, where every incoming text, email, vibration, or chirp of a ring further muddles the memories of our unplugged past.

Check out this thoughtful and succinct take on The Death of the Phone Call from Wired’s Clive Thompson. He pays respect to the fading behavior while making a good case for a redesign of the phone call itself. He asserts the ‘constant lightweight contact’ we’re all engulfed by is contributing to the Phone Call’s death, which are emotionally more high-bandwidth. You may have noticed.

But does the phone call really deserve to die, as Mr. Thompson claims? It may be ill. Very ill. But there’s still time for it to be turned around. There’s part of me — part of most of us I’m sure — that still loves the call. That moment of excitement upon hearing the ring — not knowing who or what the other end will bring. The Phone Call still has its moments, given the right time, the right place, the right voice on the other line. But if it does go, R.I.P. phone call. You’ve had a glorious run.

(Note: The Wired article is over a year old. But sometimes magazines fall behind the couch. Sometimes they are discovered and read some 15 months later. And sometimes, even in the rapidly-changing world of consumer technology, articles age well. It happens.)


2 Responses to Ring ring, the Phone Call is Ill

  1. Jeff McVeigh says:

    Maybe I’m too much of a romantic, but I think a phone call, sudden or expected is still very nice. I also think it is a much more effective way to communicate. You can discuss making plans so much more interactively. Mr. Thompson has the believe that this is actually the opposite.
    We all have an opinion. Mine is that the phone call trumps the text or email.

  2. Well, yes. The call has it’s place. Others I’ve shared this article with seem to be in that camp. Each medium in our hyper-connected world — at least those that stick around — sort of carves out a place. Texts have their place. Twitter does. Email certainly does. I’m pretty sure bike messengers are still around, somewhere. I’d even argue hand-written letters have gotten *more* powerful in the last 20 years.

    It seems the key is using the right method for the right situation … and I suspect many people’s frustrations arise from a perception that “people text when they should call” and vice versa. In other words, communicating less-optimally than we could be, “improper” texting, calling, etc.

    The effectiveness of a tool also seems to vary by those we communicate with. There are people I can exchange long, heart-felt compositions in email form with, certain old friends for instance. But those same people I may not have any phone chemistry with and rarely call. Others I’d rather call, text, or just see in person.

    As for the phone call. I’m still a believer — of calls under 20 minutes at least. Let’s keep it alive.

    (For all I know you may still be too much of a romantic… I just wouldn’t blame that on your support of the phone call.)

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