Monday, March 21, 2011

The Passing of Social Interruption

After Skyping a longtime pal today I found myself in wonder at our long, meandering and often humorous conversation...in wonder??
Then it hit me - people don't any more just chat on the phone. You know, telling tales from our daily lives. I grabbed my weekend NY Times (it takes a while to make it to the outback) and it explained to me that, if I have to use the phone, the call is to be set up by e-mail.  I knew immediately what they meant as just this morning I'd been trying to set up two that way. Those E-mails will bounce around for a day or three before we'll finally agree when to be on the phone. And who initiates (and gets to pay). Not too much lightness of being or pleasing spontaneity there.

Just a few years ago who'd have guessed we'd soon be writing again with e-mail or surrogates (texting, Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook) to set up phone calls? The voice on the telephone defined what was new about the 20th Century. Ever noticed how often those instruments feature in movies from that fast-receding epoch?  In those films phones always get picked up, however much the listener dreads the conversation to come. In contrast, the most you'll usually see in flics set in our times is a short cell phone interchange or someone accessing a message. How come?

Perhaps life is too busy today to be interrupted by the unplanned. Only the other day my thirty-something son, as we were discussing the communication setup for his newly acquired house, pointed out that he and his friends almost always let phone calls go to voice mail even if they recognize the caller's number. Then they check the message to see whether it's junk or they might respond with text or even a call back if only once in a while. Ergo one has no need for a land-line any more as, even if the cell battery is flat, no worries as any message is stored for later access. It seems we're mimicking those not-so-long-ago times when visiting cards or posted notes ensured the visit would be at a time of the recipient's own choosing.

That game-changing invention from Alexander Graham Bell that authorized immediate verbal interruption only did so for a few generations. Nowadays, we're reverting to what before Bell was thought correct behaviour. Anyway who in recent years 'drops by' to see anyone, other than a lonely elderly relative or a tolerant neighbour to beg a household essential, without setting it up advance?  Not to ask first could be equated with inflicting vocal spam.

We haven't quite got to office sign-up for hanging about at the water cooler...but it's coming - you'll see!

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting, Ian, that's an observation I hadn't made but when I think about it, it's true. I rarely use the phone and see my kids and nephews texting etc. The family sets up times for webcams via email too. Oh sometimes this new world just moves too fast, y'know?!

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