My husband was out of town this weekend so I had plans Friday night to leave the cubicle, come home and settle into a different computer at a different desk—this time in my living room—and write all night. But when 5 o’clock rolled around, I couldn’t do it. I needed a break, some brief respite between the PC and the Mac—preferably one that involved a glass of wine—so I would feel like I did something with my day other than work. So I grabbed my cell and did what any self-respecting 27-year-old needing to kick back would do. I called Mom.
When I complained that, even after having met so many potential new friends, I still didn’t have someone to call after work on a Friday just to see what they were up to, Mom asked me why I didn’t just buck up and phone one of them.
And then it hit me: “I don’t have their numbers!”
It’s true. Most of my new friends are still email and Facebook only. We write back and forth to set up a date, then we meet, then we email to say what a nice time we had and lets do it again and when are you free? I imagine we’ll eventually exchange numbers and advance to texting, but I honestly don’t know if phone calls are in our future.
On Sunday, as if on cue, the New York Times published this article about how technology might be diminishing children’s friendships. They write, “Children used to actually talk to their friends…But now, even chatting on cellphones or via e-mail (through which you can at least converse in paragraphs) is passé. For today’s teenagers and preteens, the give and take of friendship seems to be conducted increasingly in the abbreviated snatches of cellphone texts and instant messages, or through the very public forum of Facebook walls…” The article goes on to say that two-thirds of teens are more likely to use their cell to text than to talk. And while 54% say they text friends at least once a day, only 33% talk to their friends in person that often.
It’s pretty staggering stuff. But I’m a decade older than the high end of the 12-17 group that qualified as teens in these studies, and I too have adapted to a text-only lifestyle. Yes, I email. But when it comes to friends, I really only talk on the phone with the ones who live in other cities. It’s a means of staying in touch. With local pals, text messages are exchanged to suggest and confirm plans. When the name of a Chicago-based friend pops up on my caller ID, my first thought is generally “I hope nothing’s wrong,” instead of “How nice that they’re calling.”
And though I think this is a problem, I don’t know if I’ll do anything about it. I feel like calling is an imposition. I picture New Friend cooking dinner or or doing work or watching TV, and I don’t want to be the name that provokes a “why is she calling me?” response. So for now I stick, regrettably, to making new friends via new technology.
Do you talk to local friends and make plans via phone calls or texts and emails? Do you think the teen technology takeover is trickling upward to adults? If a 16-year-old saw the “Telephone Hour” scene from Bye Bye Birdie she would even recognize those spiral wires as telephone cords? I doubt it.