Some of us are old enough to remember the days when you went out of the office and came back to the ever- grumpy office receptionist flapping a pile of messages for you from “all the people who had tried to phone you while you were out”. These were the times of being able to go for days or even weeks without having to return a single call – ‘Oh sorry, I was in Windhoek last week’, or ‘Shit, the new receptionist didn’t give me the message’ or any other lame excuse for avoiding the call, were all accepted.

Then along came cell phones and that changed the game completely. Now when you went out the office and sat in a meeting you knew right away when people were trying to get hold of you. After your meeting, you could come out to discover you are lucky enough to have 15 or even 20 voice messages to listen to and remember to call back (with no message slip to remind you to call back). You felt like a guard dog on a choke chain – no escape and under 24-hour recorded surveillance. All you wanted to do was throw the damn cell phone against the wall. As it turned out, an unforeseen outcome of the cell phone was that it turned out to be something of an inconvenient convenience.

It is no wonder then that we no longer make as many phone calls as we used to. Because of its own cruel form of Pavlovian conditioning, the cell phone has made us increasingly suspicious of all phone calls as well as the people who make them. The cell phone was the catalyst that changed the way we prefer to communicate with each other, but why do we prefer to text rather than talk to each other?

I came across the results of a recently published survey in the USA that put forward some ideas on the topic:

  • Texting is much less emotionally draining than talking – you do not have to listen or pay attention until you want to.
  • Texting a response enables you to give a better-considered response to a question.
  • You can text and multi-task – i.e. text while you are eating, bathing, on the loo, or even driving – so it is more efficient than talking.
  • Texting enables you to share other forms of data – mainly pics and rather perversely, voice notes too.
  • Texting is more discreet than talking – nobody in the same room as you need know when you are having a tiff with your partner or sending memes to your bud in the middle of a boring meeting.

All good points but they tend to justify texting people as being something that is better than talking to people and I do not agree.

Laptops have already put handwriting on the endangered species list. Do we really still need to teach our children calligraphy? Will they need this skill when they grow up? When last did you sit down and write a document by hand (other than a shopping list)? It feels like it is just a matter of time before we forget how to write by hand and personally, I have no problem with this. We do not need to able to write by hand when we have keypads that we carry around in our pockets and keyboards on our laptops at work.

However, is it possible that the cell phone could put ‘talking’ on the same endangered list as writing? Already some people are claiming to have ‘talked’ to someone when really all they have done is exchange text messages with them and others are ending relationships via text. There is no longer a clear line between the right time for talking and the right time for texting and texting is definitely on the up. Texts are blind to intonation and it is easy to miss the intended meaning of written words and to get the wrong impression about the demeanour of the writer. This can and does cause friction in relationships.

In the interests of preserving human sociability, I think we should all be making a concerted effort to hone our verbal conversation skills by giving our vocal chords more exercise and our thumbs a rest. Next time you get a call from an unknown number or someone you do not feel like talking to right now, have the courage to take the call and engage with the person immediately. Taking calls like these is character building and enables you to hone your sociability skills much better than you would by texting your communications. You can always politely hang up if you do not like the way the conversation is heading.

This article has very little to do with our business (except there is reference to a survey in it). If you would like to find out more about our business, please visit our website www.alltold.co.za or call Megan on 072 060 5241 – she is sure to take your call.