When’s the last time you used your phone…as a phone?
In only a decade or two, e-mail, instant messaging and texting have made the phone call so rare that now when I call a friend, they answer the phone with the same confusion as if they just answered their ringing shoe.
Well I am mourning the demise of the telephone call. Not because I’m some Luddite pining for “a simpler time”. E-mail and texting are miracles. They’re cheap, lightening fast, international, concise, and they allow you to avoid six minutes of superfluous pleasantries when all you need to say is “I’ll be five minutes late”. But we’ve come to rely on these conveniences almost entirely, expecting them to do the same job as a conversation. When without the occasional phone call, text-based communication can be ineffective. First, there’s the obvious issue of technical failure.
Get one letter wrong in her e-mail address and she never receives your message. Lightening strikes a Rogers tower and he never gets your text.
If the message does reach the intended recipient, miscommunication often rears its ugly head. Since tone is difficult to read in text, sarcasm can be lost or needlessly created. And what you thought was a straightforward, succinct note comes across as curt or angry. “I need those invitations sent out today”. Oh my God, he HATES me! Then there’s human failure. People aren’t perfect. We read a message, intend to reply, but that Buzzfeed article on 23 Ways to Make Grilled Cheese distracted us. Out of sight, out of mind. The inbox fills up and that message is lost in the ether. And while it is frustrating to not receive a timely reply, people foolishly send time sensitive or important information via e-mail or text expecting an immediate response. This is unrealistic. The recipient could be out of town, in a meeting, or fishing their phone out of the toilet. Basically, there is no such thing as an “emergency e-mail”. No one has ever shouted, “This man is dying! E-mail a doctor!”
And lastly, on an emotional level, at times text-based communication can feel too impersonal. Example: As someone on the dating scene, I have been disappointed when men arrange dates entirely by text. Instead of one voice conversation, we send 15 text messages back and forth to arrange drinks at the Toad. To be honest, it makes me feel unimportant, not worth the effort of the use of their vocal chords.
So many things can go wrong! Yes, texting and e-mail are convenient and important communication tools, but to know without a shadow of a doubt that your true message was received, keep the phone call in your tool kit.
Follow-up with a call to see if Jim got that report you e-mailed. Arrange dinner with her…with your voice. Call Leah and see if she wants you to buy tickets to that concert. If what you have to say is important, why risk not getting your message across?
Jane is a writer and performer with the Winnipeg sketch comedy troupe, Hot Thespian Action, an improviser with local improv troupe, Outside Joke, and the host of the CBC Comedy Factory Podcast. Find her on Twitter: @TestarJane