My parents would tell you I had a phone attached to my head much of the time as a young girl in the 80s and especially as a teenager in the 90s. I wasn’t allowed to have a phone in my room, but what we DID have was probably a 20-foot coil cord on the kitchen wall phone. If I wanted to have a private conversation, I could pull the receiver all the way to the garage and very nearly shut the door on the cord. This was helpful to talk about all the social politics of who liked whom with my girlfriends, and occasionally to request a late-night ballad on Delilah (which I listened to nightly on my little pink Sharp QT radio of course).
Sometime in the last ten years though, my love affair with the phone simply died. Maybe I’m over being “connected” all the time since the rise of the smartphone and social media. Maybe I got all talked out. Maybe it’s my personality type. Maybe I’m just part of a larger societal shift… which could be a reflection of the general current of anxiety running just beneath the surface of everyone these days, as a symptom of our hurried lifestyles. Maybe it’s generational. Maybe it’s because I have a job that depends on my creativity (when designing), and being 100% focused (when strategizing or working with website code). The ring of a phone can yank me right out of “the zone,” sometimes unrecoverably so.
The Guardian says:
Perhaps it’s not phone calls themselves we object to, but the feeling of being ambushed by them. One worker in their 20s told the Wall Street Journal: “Calling someone without emailing first can make it seem as though you’re prioritizing your needs over theirs.”
That’s right. The millennial attitude towards phone calls is actually about manners. We’ve grown up with so many methods of communication available to us, and we’ve gravitated towards the least intrusive ones because we know how it feels to be digitally prodded on a range of different channels. Speaking on the telephone is an event, and we don’t want to avoid it – we just need to be sure that both parties have a chance to prepare for it. We want a chance to compose and edit our thoughts, in the way we do when we’re writing them down.
No matter where it stems from, there’s clearly no shortage of folks online who have feelings about phone calls:
These memes are really just for fun. Phone calls are a necessity sometimes: they’re the next best thing to a face-to-face meeting when a face-to-face meeting isn’t possible to talk through an idea; they can convey feelings much better than an email or text; and they’re the fastest way to relay information on a tight deadline or in an emergency. Reasons we dislike phone calls: they’re only quick if both parties are available right then and there (hence the reason we prefer to schedule our phone appointments); they’re only effective if both parties are undistracted and actually understand the messaging accurately; and there’s no official record of the conversation to fall back on. The bottom line is, I’m a grown-up and I run a business… I can pick up the phone when I need to. But the phone is no longer attached to my head (or even my hand).
It will be interesting to see how feelings around phone calls continue to evolve in the next few years, and to see what effects Gen Z workers will have on office phone etiquette as they continue to grow into a larger part of the workforce. Stay tuned!