Random Ramblings

The Personal Blog of Lori Hogan

Call Someone? Really? Maybe I'll Email First.

Because I’m trying to make sure Baby J is cultured, intelligent and sophisticated, we generally listen to CBC Radio 1 in the mornings.

(Well, really, it’s because we listen to it first thing for the traffic updates, and I’m generally too lazy to turn it over afterwards).

Jian Ghomeshi hosts ”Q”, which is self-described as “an energetic daily arts, culture and entertainment magazine that takes you on a smart and surprising ride, interviewing personalities and tackling the cultural issues that matter.”  It features a wide variety of topics and guests - most famously, the show featured Billy Bob Thornton, who was on the show to promote his band but got… a bit upset that Jian dared to mention his OTHER career.  Here’s the YouTube video of what went down then.

But an interview yesterday caught my attention, with journalist Pamela Paul about the state of the personal and business call these days. You can listen to the interview here.  But the general gist is that, for most adults in the working world:

  • Personal calls have been largely replaced with texts, emails or instant messages with the exception of a predictable set of intimate contacts (parents, spouses, children).  The ring of an unexpected call can cause anxiety - the first thought is “What’s wrong?”.  Non-routine personal calls are normally set up as “phone dates” in advance, and the negotiation is done over electronic means.

  • Business calls are also rare without first setting up the groundwork via email; sending a quick note via email is the expected, indicating you plan to call at a certain time to discuss a certain topic, with the basics of the discussion contained within.

  • No one checks their voicemail when they have Caller ID.

This describes my communication style to the letter.  ”Back in the day”, I was a bit of a phone addict, like most teenage girls of my era.  I was even slow to catch on to the SMS trend.  These days the only people I actually call, and who call me, without some electronic communication first, are my mother and in-laws.  Like the interviewer suggests, at home I think of phone calls as almost intrusive -  Why are you calling me?  I’m busy (probably not, but still…)!  Send a note and I’ll respond on my own time!  Unless it’s something urgent, I much prefer the one-way communication methods of text, email or IM, and their non-threatening nature.  Not sure if you want to respond?  I don’t know if you got the message, so you can take your time.  One thing we DON’T have in our household is Caller ID, the philosophy being “If you didn’t leave a message, it mustn’t have been important.”

At work, I normally will send an email to a contact outlining as many details of an impending call as possible, to avoid miscommunication of important facts and details as much as I am trying to avoid the actual call itself.  Business calls have their own set of rules with respect to small talk and negotiation, and I haven’t learned all the rules yet.  If we can hammer out the facts via email, that’s just fine by me.  If we can’t do that, I’d prefer a face-to-face meeting over an hour-long phone chat.

For a while, I thought my behaviour and thoughts regarding phone communications were anti-social and unusual (I’m finding more and more that I am an introvert, but more on that some other time).  So this interview made me feel better about myself.  But do I feel better about where our society is headed?  Will we lose the art of conversation, or gain time once spent chatting inanely about the weather and vacations?  Should the ring of my home phone bring on panic instead of curiosity?