Interactive Media and the Death of the Phone Call

When I was coming of age in the early 80s, there were two basic ways to communicate: face-to-face and telephone. There was a third way of communicating that was available, but never really used – writing letters, and sending them through the mail, but by the early 80s, even that mode of communication was for the most part antiquated.

Now, after explosive wave after wave in the field of information technology, the options for interfacing with the world seem boundless.

Do I want to throw out some ideas to friends and/or the public on some issue that is important to me? I’ll blog about it.

Do I want to update everyone on the latest significant event for myself or my family? Facebook it.

How about a quick update for friends and family to let them know whats going on at the moment? Facebook status update. (Some of you will Twitter it instead).

Need to let my daughter know I’m on my way to pick her up? Text message.

How about communicating a basic request or information about an event to someone? Email.

Want to catch up with someone in more detail? Nothing like setting up a face to face meeting at lunch or during the weekend.

Need to set up the meeting? A cell phone call, probably to their voice mail, will suffice. And I, likewise, will probably end up listening to a voice mail response.

Every idea or expression has a media that is best suited for it. And in the process, what I am starting to discover is that – like personal correspondence got lost in the shuffle at some point during the 60s or 70s, so the personal telephone call began to lose its importance to me at the turn of the century.

A few weeks ago, our family finally gave up on the concept of land-line voice mail. If we don’t answer when you call our house phone, you are now greeted with a polite message which lets you know we are unavailable, and which suggests you try communicating by email or cell phone.

What we had discovered was that we had lost almost all of our reliance on land line phone calls and voice mails, and that it was becoming increasingly cumbersome to keep checking the voice mail just in case an important message had been left. For the most part, if you called us on our land line, you would end up in voice mail purgatory. Plus, all of the people who need to communicate with us already know our email or our cell numbers, or both. So, by killing off our land line voice mail, we’re just eliminating the need to monitor yet another medium.

So far, its worked out pretty well. I don’t find myself missing the phone all that much.

How about you? How have you noticed your communication patterns shifting during the last few years?


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