The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

‘You Pretty Much Call People on the Phone When You Don’t Understand Their E-Mail’

Posted on | March 19, 2011 | 6 Comments

The quote is from a New York Times story about the decreasing use of the telephone for, y’know, talking:

“I literally never use the phone,” Jonathan Adler, the interior designer, told me. (Alas, by phone, but it had to be.) “Sometimes I call my mother on the way to work because she’ll be happy to chitty chat. But I just can’t think of anyone else who’d want to talk to me.” Then again, he doesn’t want to be called, either. “I’ve learned not to press ‘ignore’ on my cellphone because then people know that you’re there.” . . .
When Matthew Ballast, an executive director for publicity at Grand Central Publishing, began working in book publicity 12 years ago, he would go down his list of people to cold call, then follow up two or three times, also by phone. “I remember five years ago, I had a pad with a list of calls I had to return,” he said. Now, he talks by phone two or three times a day. ”You pretty much call people on the phone when you don’t understand their e-mail,” he said. . . .

As James Joyner says, “Even though everyone above the age of 6 seems to carry a phone around with them experts say that the phone call is a relic of the past.”

This is especially true for younger people (who constantly text, rather than talk) and people with 4G devices who use their Blackberry or iPhone to check e-mail from the time they wake up in the morning until they fall asleep at night. You see these people all the time in Washington: Dinners and receptions are less social because everybody is habitually checking messages.

Adler’s comment about his mother’s “chitty-chat” phone calls is on-point: Retirees have more time for talking on the phone, and women in general seem to enjoy talking on the phone than do men. (My wife has lonnnggg conversations with her sister, etc.) But the phone call as a means of business communication seems to be lapsing into disuse.

That people now view e-mail as the essential mode of communication is disturbing to me because I sometimes go an entire day without checking my e-mail. One of Jerry Wilson’s rules at Goldfish & Clowns is “Answer your e-mail every time all the time.”

But I usually get hundreds of e-mails a day. If I attempted to answer every one, I’d spend all day answering e-mail.

In an age of digital information overload, we are losing the human touch — and even, now, the human voice.


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