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????