The fashionably insignificant phone call

Read blogs, Facebook posts, LinkedIn posts, or Twitter feeds of technology gurus and geeks, and you will find a recurrent declaration:

“The phone app is the least used app on my smartphone.”

This statement is made with a certain pride, as how the apps are the only things these geeks use; with a certain snobbishness, as how only old fashioned folks still resort to phone calls; with a certain fanboi presumptuousness, as how Apple redefined usage of a smartphone with the app store.

Ask them when was the last time you actually talked with a human being, and they need to scratch their heads to recollect.

Over the last two years, I have observed the consequences of this phenomenon. Most friends don’t meet in person, nobody talks to each other on the phone anymore. Everyone just “follows” their friends on online social networks, and like, comment, and share each other’s posts.

In January 2014, I invited many friends to my 10th wedding anniversary and a housewarming party for our new dream home. I sent personally handcrafted invites to over 100s of friends. But the interesting story is what happened when I called them up individually to invite them.

Each and every phone call resulted in a conversation that was either:

  • Intellectually enriching in terms of technology/startup/media trends
  • Emotionally fulfilling in many different ways
  • Both of the above, resulting in promises to each other that “we should do this often”

I learned a lesson through that experience. Since then, I have been trying to expand online interactions with offline meetings and conversations on phone or Skype. The results are startling.

I have learned that online-only interactions can never be a substitute for real life face-to-face meetings and conversations, and phone calls where you listen to each others’ voice and actually speak instead of just type and share photos.

I suggest you do an experiment. When you are not busy on weekends, call up or meet your friends instead of checking FB/Instagram/Twitter/etc. Try it for a few weeks, give me your feedback in the comments.

I am not anti-technology in any way. I just think that the ease of interaction through mobile apps with hundreds of truly insignificant people has endangered human voice and personal communication with the few significant people in our lives.

P.S. Many of the friends we invited to our anniversary and housewarming still recollect it as being the last time they met so many of their friends. What does that say?

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