Via Alan, I learned of an article in the New York Times addressing the diminished importance of telephone calls. Here's an excerpt.
NOBODY calls me anymore - and that’s just fine. With the exception of immediate family members, who mostly phone to discuss medical symptoms and arrange child care, and the Roundabout Theater fund-raising team, which takes a diabolical delight in phoning me every few weeks at precisely the moment I am tucking in my children, people just don’t call.
It’s at the point where when the phone does ring - and it’s not my mom, dad, husband or baby sitter - my first thought is: "What’s happened? What’s wrong?" My second thought is: "Isn’t it weird to just call like that? Out of the blue? With no e-mailed warning?"
I don’t think it’s just me. Sure, teenagers gave up the phone call eons ago. But I’m a long way away from my teenage years, back when the key rite of passage was getting a phone in your bedroom or (cue Molly Ringwald gasp) a line of your own.
In the last five years, full-fledged adults have seemingly given up the telephone - land line, mobile, voice mail and all. According to Nielsen Media, even on cellphones, voice spending has been trending downward, with text spending expected to surpass it within three years.
"I literally never use the phone," Jonathan Adler, the interior designer, told me. (Alas, by phone, but it had to be.) "Sometimes I call my mother on the way to work because she’ll be happy to chitty chat. But I just can’t think of anyone else who’d want to talk to me." Then again, he doesn’t want to be called, either. "I’ve learned not to press ‘ignore’ on my cellphone because then people know that you’re there."
"I remember when I was growing up, the rule was, 'Don't call anyone after 10 p.m.'," Mr. Adler said. "Now the rule is, 'Don't call anyone. Ever.'."
Phone calls are rude. Intrusive. Awkward. "Thank you for noticing something that millions of people have failed to notice since the invention of the telephone until just now," Judith Martin, a k a Miss Manners, said by way of opening our phone conversation. "I’ve been hammering away at this for decades. The telephone has a very rude propensity to interrupt people."
Though the beast has been somewhat tamed by voice mail and caller ID, the phone caller still insists, Ms. Martin explained, "that we should drop whatever we’re doing and listen to me."
Even at work, where people once managed to look busy by wearing a headset or constantly parrying calls back and forth via a harried assistant, the offices are silent. The reasons are multifold. Nobody has assistants anymore to handle telecommunications. And in today’s nearly door-free workplaces, unless everyone is on the phone, calls are disruptive and, in a tight warren of cubicles, distressingly public.
There's more at the link.
I must admit, I find the author's attitude strange. I still use the telephone in preference to e-mail, etc. when I want to contact friends. In fact, I've refused to use instant messaging ever since it first appeared. It seems to me to be an extremely irritating interruption to one's flow of work, or thought, or whatever, to have to constantly stop what one's doing in order to answer an IM from someone else. At least, with a telephone, I can take a quick look at the caller ID. If it's someone of importance to me, I can answer it; or I can let the caller leave a voicemail message for future reference.
What say you, readers? Are you using the phone less? Let's hear from you in Comments.