Thursday, December 28, 2023

Answering the Phone: A Communitarian Gesture?


Phone calls can be inconvenient, awkward, and even anxiety-inducing. That's certainly a sentiment shared by today's zoomers, who are painfully introverted and conversation-averse. Rather than hear your friend's voice on the other end of the line, we opt instead to shoot a lazy text, perhaps accompanied by an emoji or two. While texting is easy and time-effective, it is an action devoid of real human interaction. When we pick up the phone and engage in dialogue, however, we are hearing the unadulterated sound of the other person's voice, and that is inimitable. 

In an op-ed published in Business Insider yesterday, Mia de Graaf remarks on the Gen-Z phenomenon of letting incoming calls go to voicemail:

When I see a call from a non-relative flash on my phone, I might pick up, but I often don't. I'm working, or making food between meetings, or lost in a social media rabbit hole that I'm simply not ready to extract myself from. Sometimes I'm sitting smooth-brained, unprepared for an unexpected social interaction. If it's a friend calling, I assume it's not an emergency because there's surely a lot of people they would call before deciding I'm, in fact, their savior. I'll text to ask what's up.

What's more, de Graaf goes on to say that answering the phone is a boomer trait. Boomers, for example, have the tendency to answer an incoming phone call, even when they are unavailable. "Hey, I can't talk right now. Can I call you back?", they'll say. This courteous and un-arduous gesture is, to zoomers, superfluous and even cringe! And, as de Graaf rightly notes, "one thing millennials and zoomers don't want to be is cringe." 

de Graaf's interview with U.S. Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, is instructive:

"Number one, I've heard that just picking up the phone when friends call, even if it's just to tell them for five seconds that, 'Hey, I'm tied up. Can I call you back later?', that that actually makes a big difference compared to silencing the call and texting them back," Murthy said. "The reason is because you're hearing the sound of their voice, they're hearing your voice, and that connection is stronger even if it's brief."

The key word here: connection. Murthy, who earlier this year scared the bejesus out of everyone by reporting that "the mortality impact of being socially disconnected is similar to that caused by smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day", is absolutely spot on in his prescription. I, personally, have had many substantive and fulfilling conversations over the phone. These never would have translated over text. 

So, in short, the next time your phone rings, answer it, unless my friend Spam Risk is calling...

1 comment:

  1. People also treat their phone like an appendage, an extension of themselves. Even sitting in conversation, face-to-face, phone is at hand, ready to be scanned for that important text from the Pentagon..