I Use My Phone as a Phone

by Stefan Slater

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My first cell phone had pre-programmed texts.

There. You were just privy to my first “I’m getting old so here’s some trivial info about my half-forgotten youth” fact. I’m starting down the path to my inevitable meet-up with the Reaper. The years are flying by. I found a grey hair. Death, darkness and something about turning to dust.

Anyway. I digress.

Yes, the cell was pre-programmed with simple things, like “Where R U?” or “OK” or “Hi.” I distinctly remember having a text-based conversation for the first time when I was 14, and the novelty of typing out “How r u?” was thrilling. My teenage brain could hardly comprehend the futuristic possibilities that texting promised. But then I promptly grew tired of tediously typing out all those simple words and I watched four Roger Moore-era Bond flicks back-to-back, discovered Playstation 2 and then high school ended. The years do go by quickly.

During college I used a Motorola Razr, which to me, seemed very trendy. But then college ended quickly too (my flashbacks never seem to last very long), and I found myself immersed in the smart phone era–a time period that’s defined by minimal interpersonal contact.

Because of my preference for never keeping up with trends, I had a tendency to call people instead of texting them all throughout high school and college. Ultimately, it seemed easier when I wanted to say something more than a simple “Hello.” I also had the texting speed of a NyQuil-addled chimpanzee, so that complicated things too.

Regardless, I now find myself in a bit of a predicament: I like to use my phone as a phone, but it seems like most people use their phones only for texting.

According to Time magazine, Americans between the ages of 18 to 29 type out and receive roughly 88 text messages a day. Guess how many calls they make daily? 17. That’s it.

When I communicate with my friends, I keep it simple, and I try to text only brief items. But if they want to talk-talk via text, I just can’t do it. I get frustrated. It feels like I’m wasting my time typing something out that can be said in five seconds flat. It gets worse too: I’ve had business associates that wouldn’t respond to my calls or voicemails over the course of several days, but I text them once, and they get back to me instantly.

Those sorts of incidences only encourage me to make loud, angry noises. I don’t like doing that.

I get that texting is convenient, and yes, sometimes phone calls are a little intrusive and bothersome. But I’ve done hundreds of phone interviews since I started freelancing back in 2010 and because of that I’ve learned one very important thing: You learn a lot about a person when you can actually hear them speak.

Their intonations. A love, or even a hatred for silences. Plus, vocal conversations thrive on elaboration–misunderstandings occur less when you take the time to actually converse with someone. Honestly.

Talking, hearing a person’s voice, is more sincere than simply reading quick snippets of thoughts punctuated with emoticons. If I’m taking the time to talk with you on the phone, I want to get to know you. I’ve taken the time to communicate with you. So, let’s make sure we do it properly. No LOL shenanigans, please.

One day, I’ll get a fancy phone that will convert my thoughts into texts, and I’ll completely change my stance on this matter. But until then, I’m going to use my cell for its original intended purpose: to make phone calls while I’m on the move.

Except when I’m driving. I still need to get a bluetooth.

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