Just Freaking Call Me

This is the confession of a serial texter. I text all the time. I send off rapid-fire zingers, hit up my entire contact list to see what people's poppin' weekend plans are, and screw around figuring out the weirdest word I can spell with the number 8. For a long time I've dreamed of a world where everything could be taken care of via text.

Image remixed from Icons Jewelry (Shutterstock).

Whether it's scheduling a doctor's appointment, managing job responsibilities or ordering late-night delivery, I wish I could send a text for whatever I needed, receive a personalised confirmation and not be bothered anymore. Dealing with stuff over the telephone takes forever. You have to call back, repeat yourself, spend time on hold, then make sure they get your postcode right. It's the worst. Making phone calls is just so laborious.

It was an afternoon like any other, when my friend Stephanie and I were trying to coordinate our plans for dinner -- you know, some place close, but reasonably priced, but not Italian, definitely a place with waiters, not a drab joint. I wasn't sure what time and didn't care about outdoor seating. Yeah, the place better serve booze. There were too many variables and we kept texting back and forth. My mobile phone was vibrating so much it's like it had the shakes. My thumbs were starting to bleed.

Then Stephanie texted: Just call me.

At first I was appalled. I mean, a phone call? What sacrilege! Using our voices to exchange actual words? We didn't buy smartphones for this.

"Hey," Stephanie said, once I rang her. "So for tonight..."

We asked concise questions, answered each other directly, were insistent and made concrete plans. It took less than five minutes.

The impossible task of deciding where to dine was dealt with quickly and without fuss. After the phone call we didn't text anymore. And it felt nice to chop off that ongoing line of connection. Perhaps my serial texting is a bit of a time-waster, I thought. And recently I've been texting my friends: Just freaking call me!

It's hard to pinpoint when the shift happened but it definitely did. For a lot of people I know -- people in their twenties and thirties, almost all of whom own smartphones and don't have landline connections in their homes -- at some point texting became our primary means of communication.

According to CTIA, an international organisation that represents the wireless industry, there were 158.6 billion text messages sent in America in 2006. In 2011, there were 2.3 trillion. That's an increase of almost 1500 per cent. Plotted out, the CTIA data shows an exponential increase. More info finds that the percentage of households that have landlines is decreasing. This confirms what a lot of us already know: texting is what's up and phone calls are passé.

Texting is better because we can do it wherever, on the bus, during a meeting, in an aeroplane even after they tell you to turn off "all electronic devices", or while watching a really boring movie in the cinema. Texting allows us to carry on many conversations at once; it's clear, quick and includes emoticons. I think I speak for a lot of people when I say going a whole day without talking on the phone is understandable, while going a whole day without texting is unimaginable. Phone calls are outmoded and we try to avoid them. However, we shouldn't be so quick to dismiss!

When a new piece of technology comes along, earlier technologies take on more of a niche role. For instance, in the 1950s, when TV viewing came to replace radio listening as the most popular form of home entertainment, radios didn't go away. Although families now watched I Love Lucy on the tube instead of listening to Orson Welles narrate The Shadow, radios were still important. They played more music (since narrative shows were now within the domain of TV), were installed in cars, and used to communicate wonky political beliefs. Instead of finding a niche role for phone calls, however, we're trying to discard them completely.

As a texting addict, I have to admit: While texting is great and lovely and awesome, it can lead to the most meandering, drawn-out, random-ass conversations ever, where we send messages back-and-forth without coherent communication. It also takes a while to express complex thoughts or deal with complicated situations like deciding where to dine.

The niche role of phone calls, then, is that they allow for direct discussion and immediate problem-solving. They're annoying but useful, I'd say. So the next time you text, What are your plans tonight? and your friend is like, Work sucks, and you reply, So tonight?, and your friend is like, Uggh, just give this friend a ringading and be like, "YO!"

Your thumbs will thank you.

Alex Kalamaroff is 25 years old and lives in Boston. He works for Boston Public Schools. If you shoot him an email, he'll probably respond.


    I'd like to know how many texts per day would make one a texting addict? My rough estimation iss that I send about 400 texts a month. Concerningly, on my unlimited text/call plan, I also rack up about 24 hours a month (yes a whole day....) on voice calls.....

      That's nothing, I used to work for Telstra and once saw a teenage girl come in with one of those motoroloa hiptop plans with unlimited text and she'd sent 12,500 in a month. I'm not joking, the bill (itimised for some reason) came in a cardboard satchel like what you buy from the post office.

    My issue with voice comms via telephony is how inherently obnoxious it is to call someone:

    I will set an alarm off on your person or throughout your whole house, because I demand your attention right the hell now.

    ^ This is what it means to me to call or be called. I will of course call if I'm expecting you and you're not here, or if time is limited to resolve a question (do I pick you up/etc), but I can't see it any other way: it's just obnoxiously, arrogantly selfish to call me unexpectedly without good reason.

      What a completely ludicrous point of view. The point of owning a telephone and always having it on you is to be completely contactable at all times. If you for some reason have taken issue with the way phones have inherently worked for the last hundred years then that's your crazy prerogative, but obnoxious clearly is not the word for it.

        Historically, telephones make a lot of sense, as there were few other alternatives to easily communicate with people who aren't right in front of you. Physical mail is slow and unreliable, and carrier pigeons haven't been in fashion for years (:P). However, now that we can communicate asynchronously or synchronously as we choose, I think someone choosing to synchronously communicate with you for a trivial and non-urgent matter is indeed selfish and obnoxious. Again, my caveats stand for when you're needing someone's attention quickly to resolve a problem, but if you just want to say hi, it doesn't need to be synchronous. I'll respond when I want to.

      you must be a lonely guy

        Not at all; I just text or facebook message everyone.

      I guess doorbells, lift buttons and calling for taxis also rank highly on your arrogantly selfish list.
      Personally, I wouldn't worry about it, this whole electric telephone is just a fad, and we will return to using morse code and messenger boys.

        I did acknowledge that there are uses to phones, especially time-sensitive ones like calling a taxi. I don't see how lift buttons are remotely similar. Doorbells, on the other hand, also rate highly on my list of things I hate. If you've come to my house unannounced, it's probably to sell me something I don't need. My friends don't live sufficiently close to just drop by, so the only time I look forward to hearing a knock or ring is when I'm expecting a courier to drop something off.

      I set my phone the silent most of the time. Vibrate turned off.

      It's pretty great, and solves your problem. give it a shot.

    SMS needs an availability flag like Skype's 'away', 'do not disturb', 'offline', etc. I also think we need better etiquette tools that set the sender's expectations in advance. For example, if I'm having a busy day, then I want to let everyone who wants to communicate with me know that I won't be replying to them quickly, UNLESS it really is urgent and they use my pre-established priority levels. It would be like asking someone beforehand a) what's important, urgent and critical, and b) how quickly they will respond in each of these cases. If your house is burning down, its critical to you, but not to me, so don't expect me to call back in 2 minutes - I won't - but if MY house is burning down, I will call you back in 15 seconds!

    We have so many methods of receiving communication these days, that we need ways of filtering out what's important to us and what isn't, and making sure people who want to get in touch with us know the preferred methods, and our rules for responding. Expecting me to respond quickly is not showing me respect, expecting me to treat something the same way as you, is not thinking about how I feel about it, and so on.

    ...why did she text you instead of calling you? :P

    Time or content/context sensitive? Call.
    Data/info? Text/email.
    That is all.

      How about emotional/intimate

      some of these replies help the point of the article and make it obvious that many people have forgotten that people don't just communicate to do business

        Yeah, good point, DanielW. Romantic purposes definitely benefit from synchronous, vocal communication rather than relatively atonal text. Don't underestimate how much tone can come across when you've communicated exclusively by text for a while, though. Expressiveness can be appreciated once you have familiarity with someone's writing style.

        That said, I find a lot of people aren't aware of the way they impart tone when they write at all; it's just lost on a lot of people.

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