A young person’s phone is the love of their life…
Ask me about my phone and I’ll tell you there is little love lost between us.
I actually miss the days when phones were not mobile but rooted in the earth. I miss rushing to answer a ringing phone. I miss the chats I used to have with people who hadn’t phoned to speak to me.
BC (Before Cellphones) when you answered the phone it was within accepted etiquette to inquire as to the wellbeing of the person who had called. This could often turn into a quick conversation. That is what communication used to be about: connections, both planned and serendipitous.
There is no serendipity with Caller ID. It takes away the suspense and wonder as to who is calling. There is no need to listen intently to identify a voice.
My ears rarely prick with anticipation at the sound of my phone ringing. Because is rarely rings. It mostly pings.
Audio settings on phones now are not only – or even mainly – about ringing. They are part of a new field known as Notifications. Phone use is no longer about Ring and Speak, but Ping and Notify. The entire interaction can now be voice-free. This is due to the unfortunate trend of typing on your phone instead of talking into it.
I speak on the phone with my friends and family far less than I used to. I mostly see their messages displayed on my phone’s little screen, in small letters. Often riddled with typos, misspelling, bad grammar and silly abbreviations. Or no words at all but thumbs pointing up or down. Or worse yet, endless variations of the Smiley Face.
When it comes to personalising your phone’s ping, there are few loud sounds to choose from. People want to be notified of a new message immediately, regardless of whether they are at a work meeting or a dinner with friends. Or even in bed with a loved one. Hence they prefer their Notification Alert sounds to be soft and subtle.
Since the signaling of a Notification is inevitably via a short soft ping, I can easily miss hearing it unless I am right next to my phone. I know there is an option to mute the audio and switch to Vibrate. But since I don’t keep my phone in my pocket, that would just be an even softer buzzing going unnoticed in my bag.
I miss the continuous loud ringing of an old-fashioned phone. Which you can choose to set as your cellphone’s ringtone. This is a popular option with older people. But it kind of defeats the purpose of a personalised ring if every greyhair in sight jumps at the sound of the same Vintage Rrring-rrring Ringtone.
It seems like the concept of instant spoken communication is now passé. You say, I say, in real time – that’s history. Now it’s You message me, I text back.
Due to all of the above, my phone no longer represents the potential of a warm, friendly human voice in my ear, ideally of someone I know and like. What my phone now signals is duty.
A ping is a thing that does not make my heart sing. For it means I will be forced to type a reply.
Not that I am anti-typing. Quite the contrary. As an experienced high-speed typist, I am rather fond of putting digits to keyboard. All ten of them. I was well trained in high school typing class and am proud of my WPM (Words Per Minute).
I hear they no longer teach handwriting at school, so I don’t know if typing is still taught. It is probably considered “intuitive”. Studies have undoubtedly shown that apes, when handed a cellphone, instinctively apply their opposable thumbs.
My problem is not with the thumb-typing. It’s the keyboard. Despite what the name would imply, a proper board with touch-typable keys is not a feature of most mobile phones. You can barely fit a thumb at a time on their miniscule on-screen keyboards.
My disappointment over the latest trends in digital communications is not so much about the phones themselves. It’s about missing the talking part. Which used to be integral to phoning but is now somehow seen as superfluous.
I don’t like it that you are expected to send a message instead of interrupting the person with a phone call.
My New Old Self still needs to phone. In the time it would take me to clumsily thumb-type a message, press Send and wait for delivery, I could just dial the number. And then eagerly anticipate the voice on the end of the line.
Sadly, even if I make the effort to dial and speak, my call will often go unanswered. Voicemail then instructs me – wait for it – “Don’t leave a voice message, rather send a text.”