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comment by kleinbl00
kleinbl00  ·  189 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Why No One Answers Their Phone Anymore: Telephone culture is disappearing.

'K. So. That was delicious.

The "disappearance" of "telephone culture" is a direct consequence of place and decorum in that telephones used to be for places. You had a home phone and an office phone and if you needed to be reached at the office you had a number. If you needed to be reached at home it was presumed it was someone who knew you personally, wanted to know you personally, or had something important to communicate.

A phone was not an obligation - a phone was a tool for communicating within certain settings. And because phones were controlled by large monopolies with ridiculous build cost and tremendous vertical integration it was exceedingly difficult to sidestep the decorum associated with calling a phone number. And if you didn't connect, you didn't connect. If it was important, you'd call back.

Answering machines, which are older than Alexis Madrigal, allowed people to leave messages. This allowed people to screen calls, which has been happening since before Alexis Madrigal was born. Where things got messed up for the phone company, however, was when they went digital.

Because they couldn't do it all at once. Your digital system had to be backwards-compatible with your analog system, and your analog system had to be backwards-compatible with the first phone systems installed back in nineteen diggity-two. Which meant, effectively, that the controls on digital technology were adequate for nineteen diggity-two.

The same technology that allowed the phone company to give you voicemail allow VoIP pirates to phonebank the shit out of everyone from a call center in Bangalore. Once it's become data you can do anything with it. The original PCS transport protocol is literally 10BaseT. You're on a computer now, bubba.

So they made them smaller and they put one in everyone's pocket and phones were no longer about place. I fought them for years using this very argument: "I am not a place. If you need to reach me, you can reach me AT home. You can reach me AT work." For a while cell phones were things you called in an emergency because they were expensive. Texts, despite being free sideband metadata, were equally expensive. And then things were deregulated such that texts were free and calling was cheap and suddenly

you

could not

escape.

And that's the thing Madrigal doesn't get (because he's a fucktard). "Telephone culture" has vanished because there's no goddamn freedom from it. There's no longer any unreachability because the number everyone has (and it's on Facebook and it's everywhere and VoIP is so cheap that you can literally dial every number sequentially) is in your back pocket. Which means if someone is calling you, they're fuckin' interrupting you. You can't get away from that thing.

So yeah. People text first because it's polite and asymmetrical. If you're the kind of person who responds to texts too quickly, people email you. You likely chat with your friends on the phone, but rarely... but when you do, it's important.

I work freelance. We're hired on the phone. Random-ass number calls you, you pick up because it is likely a producer who got your name from a friend or coworker and they don't want to waste time. They want to take your pulse and answer any questions. I once almost got fired off a job because I cracked a joke (wish I had in retrospect). Voice communication is more important now, not less.

My wife delivers babies. She's got a client portal in her EHR. She answers texts from patients all the time. But every single one of them - ALL OF THEM - call when it's time for the baby.

That most reclusive of species, the early-20s woman, who never talks to anyone on the phone anymore, CALLS my wife in the middle of the night to say the baby is coming.

Telephone culture isn't dead. It's just been elevated. And if you don't get that, you deserve to get hung up on.