I’m told I have a strange relationship with phones. Apparently most people have an automatic compulsion to answer a phone that’s ringing, whereas my automatic compulsion is to ignore it. Unless I’m expecting a particularly important or scheduled call, I generally don’t answer the phone. That’s true even if it’s a recognisable number from a friend.
I’ll tend to let the answerphone take a message and then ring back at my leisure, if I even ring back at all. I’m very bad at ringing people back.
And if you text me it’s 99.9% certain you’ll never get a reply. I just don’t type on phones on account of having human hands rather than the appendages of a gibbon. At best you’ll get a reply by email when I’m next at a computer.
So why is this the case?
Well there’s a certain amount of old fogeyism at work here of course. I come from an era when phones weren’t prevalent in general and mobile phones hadn’t been invented yet. In an emergency you used a phone box, although that’s a lot harder now as most phone boxes have now been turned into nightclubs or whatever.
But that isn’t it. I hated phones even back then. At places I’ve worked in the pre-mobile era I’ve been renowned for ignoring a phone that’s ringing on my desk, a mere 18 inches away from me.
There’s also my dodgy hearing to consider. My hearing is quite severely compromised and that makes phones hard to use for me. For any long phone calls I need headphones turned up very loud.
But that isn’t it either.
It’s the instantaneous interruption that I hate. A phone demands your attention there and then without any regard to what you might be doing. I simply refuse to allow that.
I often go out without my phone, either deliberately or — and this is an indication of how low on my list of priorities phones are — I’ll simply forget it. I try to remember my phone if I’m going out in the car on a longish journey, just in case there’s an emergency. But if I’m just going out shopping or for an evening in the pub or whatever it’s most likely I won’t have my phone with me.
If phones are the man-eating sharks of my communications facilities, email is the fluffy bunny.
With email you’re not interrupted there and then. You can reply at your leisure and after the necessary cogitation. Even if it’s marked “urgent” you can still take your time because nothing about an email arriving in your inbox interrupts you like having to answer a phone.
Of course even email can be a problem when it arrives on one’s phone. It’s not a problem for me because in all likelihood I won’t have my phone with me and even if I do I can ignore the ping of an email or message. But there are many times I’ve been at a social gathering and at least half the people there are either talking, texting or emailing on their mobile phones. I always keep a special reserve of vitriol for such people. Just live in the moment for God’s sakes.
Email is the best communications invention ever. It’s less cumbersome than the postal system and far less interrupting than the telephone. It’s only downside is when it’s combined with a mobile phone and it’s hardly email’s fault that someone decided to do that.
So, in summary:
Email: good. Phone: bad. Mobile phone: the work of the devil.