The Phone Solution

A lot is made these days of whether or not technology is helping or hurting our social lives. There’s the side that argues we’re more connected than ever and thus more social, meeting friends we never would or keeping in touch with those we would have lost long ago if it weren’t for Facebook or Twitter. Then there’s the argument that we’re all so plugged into technology that we forget the importance of real-life interaction.

I see both sides, as I’ve said here before. I’ve definitely found new friends online (I met one of my newest best pals on a message board! Which sounds so much more  middle-school-AOL-chat-room creepy than it was), so I sing the praises of embracing technology for good not for evil.

But it has occurred to me that there is one very specific element of modern technology that is significantly detracting from my sociability: the ignore button.

Remember when you were in high school and the phone rang and you’d scream “I’ll get it!” and race to the wall where the phone was mounted? OMG, that’s the most archaic image. I can’t wait to tell my grand-kids that we once hung our phones on walls. How very 20th century. And I haven’t heard someone say “I’ll get it” since Dawson’s Creek was still in its original run. But that’s how it used to be. We didn’t have caller ID to screen, or an ignore button to silence the ringer and get back to someone when it was more convenient. We picked up, asked “who is it?” and went from there.

Today it’s just so easy to not pick up the phone. I hit ignore when: I’m working, I’m watching TV, I’m about to leave the house/office/gym, I’m tired, I’m reading, I don’t feel like talking. The list goes on. Back in the day, in any of those scenarios, I would have picked up the phone and said “I can’t talk now, can I call you back?” Now I just send it to voicemail.

Here’s why hitting ignore and ushering the call to voicemail is the lesser option: Telling someone that you will call them back is a promise. It’s rude not to do something you say you will, and you feel more responsibility to follow through with that. Hitting ignore is simply putting the call out of your head. The ignore button almost erases the fact that the call ever happened, and then I forget to check the voicemail and forget to call back. It occurred to me this morning that I have a ton of friends I need to catch up with, and then I remembered I probably owe each one of them a call, because they phoned me during a super-intense scene of Grey‘s or something.

I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before but I’m–again!–making the public resolution to pick up the phone. And if I can’t talk, I’ll say so.

This might be a socialization game-changer. You heard it here first.

Are you a slave to sending calls to voicemail? Do you ever pick up just to say “I’ll call you back?” And who even remembers when kitchen phones hung on walls????

20 Comments

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20 responses to “The Phone Solution

  1. Love this post! I definitely struggle with the idea of the ignore button, not to mention responding to text messages. In a world where everything has gone pretty much instant, it makes interactions a bit more difficult sometimes (you’re rude if you don’t call back straight away, you’re rude if you call back too soon, etc).

    I think another difficult point with technology and communication is also where and when you do it. I’ve definitely made the mistake of calling people when I’m out somewhere loud/busy, or in that one moment that I have free time. On one hand it’s nice to be able to communicate whenever, but I’m beginning to doubt that I’m really talking to people when I do so through technology instead of real life. :)

  2. I was digging for a pic of all my sisters the other day for a post, and found a page in my senior book about family. It asked what annoyed me most, and I had written that my sisters wouldn’t stay off my phone! The red high heel phone that was attached to the private line in my bedroom was my source of joy and pride! My kids probably can’t even imagine sharing phones with anyone. The oldest 2 have cell phones, the 8 year old keeps thinking he needs one, and all the little kids couldn’t even recognize a classic phone toy, you know, the one with the rotary dial kids drug around for years!!

  3. I haven’t had a phone call from a friend just to talk for at least a year. I live in a world of email friendships. I do miss the personal contact. But years ago I would call someone and they never had time to talk. Then, some had their kids pick up the phone because they were expected to screen the calls for their parents and tell all callers that she was unavailable. Now these are my closest friends I am talking about! So I either arrange to see people for coffee in person through emails or I lose touch entirely with them. Even my daughter relates to us through Facebook and emails for the most part. There isn’t much that I miss from the past in our modern, wonderful world, but personal “catching up” phone calls at home and phone booths to keep other calls private are two of the best communication devices ever to have disappeared.

  4. I lived with a phone stuck to the wall for the first 20 years of my life. (My parents even let me cover it with puffy paint.) I always had a cord, and I myself was attached to a leash on the wall whenever I used the phone. That all changed when I married a techie. I used a corless (WHAAAT?) phone for the first time. I realized just how deeply those first 20 years of phone use were ingrained in my head. I was on the cordless phone one day when the person asked me for a phone number. I had to go get my address book. Unthinking, I said, “Hold on a minute.”, and I walked across the room. Old habits die hard. I still forget all the time that not answering the phone is even an option. I always thought (even way back in the 90s) that screening calls was rude, so it never even occurs to me not to answer the phone. I even have to tell myself to stay put in the bathtub, and that I don’t need to jump up and answer the phone.

    It is pretty funny to think what our grandkids will picture when we tell them we had phones on the wall. I see images of cell phones stuck to the wall.

  5. I lived with a phone stuck to the wall for the first 20 years of my life. (My parents even let me cover it with puffy paint.) I always had a cord, and I myself was attached to a leash on the wall whenever I used the phone. That all changed when I married a techie. I used a cordless (WHAAAT?) phone for the first time. I realized just how deeply those first 20 years of phone use were ingrained in my head. I was on the cordless phone one day when the person asked me for a phone number. I had to go get my address book. Unthinking, I said, “Hold on a minute.”, put down the phone, and walked across the room. Old habits die hard. I still forget, all the time, that not answering the phone is even an option. I always thought (even way back in the 90s) that screening calls was rude, so it never even occurs to me not to answer the phone. I even have to tell myself to stay put in the bathtub, and that I don’t need to jump up and answer the phone.

    It is pretty funny to think what our grandkids will picture when we tell them we had phones on the wall. I see images of cell phones stuck to the wall.
    Reply

  6. technology is a tool…potentialy dangerous tool if people can not be aware of people importance

  7. Oh, wall phones! My parents still have only corded, landline phones. As a teenager, when I talked on the kitchen wall phone, I had no privacy because the house is so small and open. My mom would ask why I was whispering! I certainly don’t miss the lack of privacy. Still, I’m nostalgic for the landline days and the hours I spent talking on the phone with my friends during my teenage years.

    At the end of December, my best friend moved an eighteen-hour drive away, and we’ve taken to talking on the phone once a week or once every two weeks. This is the first time in years and years I’ve talked to a friend on the phone on a regular basis – and it’s fantastic!

  8. I have been just putting my phone out of reach of my ear or my hands when I am not in the mood to talk. That way, ignore applies to everyone. That’s why I love texting because you can communicate when you have time…whenever you have have a few minutes…and then ignore it, come back later, and see a response. I love that.
    What I hate is when people ignore you because they are more interested in their phone than you and you are right there with them. I think that’s very rude.

  9. Amy

    I hardly ever talk on the phone. It’s rare a friend will call. I answer when I can and love to talk when I do. I have a baby and won’t answer if I’m busy with her. My bestie and I are in near constant text communication as well as email and various social media outlets and we had lunch together twice this week! But last week she called me on her way home from somewhere and we talked for two hours. It was quite awesome!

  10. Amy

    Also, I still have a phone on my kitchen wall!

  11. not only did my phone hang on the wall … we had what was called a party line. whenever you picked up the phone there could be any one of your neighbours on it having a conversation. you had to politely try to cut in and ask if they were going to be long or you could pretend you were a spy and listen in. we’ve come a long way!!! i personally love having the ignore option at home especially after a long day at the office surrounded by all the communication technology.

    • I had a party line! I can’t remember when we finally got rid of it but I was probably close to 7 or 8 before it went away because I can remember having friends over and we’d eavesdrop on people because we were assholes.

  12. Anonymous

    I do remember life before cell phones and yes it did hang on the kitchen wall. I also rememeber first working and making my way through the day knowing exactly where and on whom to call in if I needed to make a phone call. Clients knew that they could only get you on the phone at certain times and do you remember telelphone answering mashines and having to listen, note down number to then call people back?
    So no, when my cell phone rings I always answer and if I have no time I tell them that I will call them back in half an hour! Seems more polite and friendly then pressing ignore. Although ignore is very useful sometimes … especially for pesty sales people!

  13. I very rarely hit the ignore button. Unless I’m in a meeting or on the phone I don’t purposely hit ignore. I’m not saying that there aren’t times when someone calls or texts me and I’ve forgotten that my phone is still on silent from being at work and I don’t check it. Or I leave it in my purse or the other room or I’m doing something and I can’t hear it and I don’t check it. I’m bad about that. But if you call and I’m aware you’re calling and I have no reason not to answer then I answer.

    It is totally rude when someone says they’ll call you back and then they don’t. Which is why I haven’t talked to a friend of mine in a week. That’s her m.o. and I finally got tired of it. Once or twice? Fine. Every single time I call you? Please. I’m better than that.

  14. I love long phone conversations, but I only really do it with my sister and friends from high school. I have yet to have met a new friend who I do that with. I wonder if it is a carry over from high school habits. I even had a friend who moved away and I thought I’d call her up and talk like my high school friends and she seemed surprised every time I called her up, like I needed something. I think that is the mark of very, very good friends that you can call them up without needing a reason. Sometimes a great phone conversation can be even better than going out I think.

  15. Juliette

    I was part of a conversation recently about this same thing..Here goes..a lady walks up to a group of ladies visiting at the ball park..The lady says to her friend ” Do you ever answer your phone or return my calls?”..the other lady jokes it off…so after the woman walks off, the friend says to this group ( you could tell she had felt embarrassed, to be called out like that so directly in front of a group).” She only wants to talk to me the phone, she will not text me what she wants, or email. She calls me over something that a simple text could have answered”…So you could see the group consenus was definatel,y I would not answer or call her back either!..The feeling was the woman was being rude by calling, apparently an imposition, about something like, what time is practice?…They all agreed they would listen to the voicemail, then reply with a text… It seems technology has absolutely changed the feeling of making a phone call, almost to feel like it is a instant demand on another person’ time…I myself rarely call people, except my BFF for something insignificant..Instead I will send a text saying ” Hey I need to talk with you about whatever, please call me when you have minute”..It says why I am calling, what about, and implied promise it will be a short call!…I have found most people will call very quickly, versus a voicemail can take days to be returned…Personally I think technology created distance, just because it gives you that option…

  16. the coldness of Ignore…
    in my face of what I have done is what I do not want done to me…
    practice what I desire shall manifest the positive.

    thank you for this post as I shall put into practice a new habit. And yeah…the image of the days of the dial phone on the wall from my high school days…wow… :)

    peace to you

  17. I’m definitely super guilty of hitting the ignore button. You are right that it seems so rude compared to just picking up the phone and saying I can’t talk. I too resolve to pick up the phone more!

  18. I remember when phones were hung on the wall in the kitchen! I also remember when our rotatry dial phone. I made a point to mount our CORDED phone in the basement on the wall. As for the dive to answer the phone, my 10 and 12 year old daughters could care less about who is calling, they almost never look at the caller i.d. and the race to the ringing phone with a chorus of “I’ll get it” or “I got it.” Terrible grammar and all.

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