I was having a conversation with some friends the other day when suddenly Susie — these are fake names for the sake of anonymity — said to John, “You know, I think I’m going to put you on my call list.”
“What’s a call list?” I asked, jealous that I hadn’t been offered to be put on it myself.
“It’s a list of people I call on the phone whenever I feel like talking and having a conversation,” Susie replied.
“Wait, you call people? And talk to them?” I asked in a mix of bewilderment and disgust. “Why not just text them?”
At the time, I thought that Susie was crazy. In this day and age, why would anyone be willing to put themselves through actual, real-time human interaction? Talking to someone is hard. It requires quick thinking, adept skill at feigning interest in the other person, actively planning transitions to carry on the conversation and the occasional awkward silence.
I think that my aversion toward talking to people on the phone stems from my integration into a social media-dominated society in which regular personal interaction is becoming increasingly scarce. When someone other than immediate family decides to give me a call, I’m caught off guard and subconsciously view it as invasive. What could they possibly want that they can’t communicate with me over text? The first thought that goes through my head is, “They better have lost a limb.”
Once I eliminate this as a possibility, I have an internal war about whether to pick up the phone. After shedding a few drops of sweat, I finally decide to answer. If I text, “What’s up?” in 10 minutes, they’ll know that I avoided their call. Therefore, I give myself a pep talk in the mirror and prepare myself for a real conversation.
Unfortunately, this is not a problem unique to me. In 2015, the average American sent and received five times more texts than phone calls in a day. For millennials in particular, a survey found that 75 percent would rather text than receive or make a phone call because it’s easy, convenient, less stressful, less invasive and superior to voicemail.
Though texting offers a certain level of comfort, it has its flaws. For those who are antisocial like myself, texting fosters our ability to be antisocial. It’s impersonal and eliminates the small talk, formalities and awkwardness of a real conversation. But these are all the aspects of human interaction that make them human rather than robotic, and allow people to build up the skills necessary to make real conversations desired rather than dreaded.
Additionally, smartphones have blessed us with the ability to simply hide behind a keyboard. With texting, one isn’t as sympathetic toward other’s emotions because they’re nothing but a screen. For example, it’s much easier to turn down someone’s invitation for dinner when it’s over text instead of a call. Perhaps texting’s most frustrating quality, however, is its evolution into another tool for procrastination. People have no problem pushing texts aside and answering them whenever time is available — whether it be minutes, hours, days or even weeks later.
Unlike texting, calling someone on the phone is personal and can establish a bond that would otherwise be difficult to establish through the digital curtain. Talking to another human being allows for that crazy phenomenon of actually hearing a laugh rather than reading a typed out “lol” or “haha.” It allows for the identification of tone and emotion that cannot always be accurately represented through emojis.
I’m not saying that people should make calls whenever they need to get in touch with someone. That would be impractical. Texting will most likely always remain my preferred and primary mode of communication. However, I’m ashamed that the concept of “calling” has become so foreign to me — and it appears that it has become foreign to others as well. I know it seems like a lot of work, but talking to friends on a regular basis outside the realm of texting could help to enhance relationships. Believe it or not, some people still value verbal communication and view it as a sign of respect.
With these thoughts in mind, following my conversation with Susie and John, I decided to take a leap of faith and give one of my friends — let’s call him Mike — a call just to catch up. The phone rang for about 10 seconds but eventually went to voicemail. I hung up my phone and was about to put it in my pocket when I got a text from Mike. “What’s up?”
Evan Sirls can be reached at email@example.com.