Why No One Answers Their Phone Anymore

A woman uses an office phone at a desk.

Excerpt from this article:

No one picks up the phone anymore. Even many businesses do everything they can to avoid picking up the phone. Of the 50 or so calls I received in the last month, I might have picked up four or five times. The reflex of answering—built so deeply into people who grew up in 20th-century telephonic culture—is gone.

Telephone exchanges of that era were what the scholar Robert Hopper described as “not quite ritual, but routine to the extent that its appearance approaches ritual.” When the phone rang, everyone knew to answer and speak in “the liturgy of the national attitude.” Now, people have forgotten how to pick up, the words, when to sing.

There are many reasons for the slow erosion of this commons. The most important aspect is structural: There are simply more communication options.

A Short Guide To Work Phone Calls For People Who Grew Up Texting

A Short Guide To Work Phone Calls For People Who Grew Up Texting

Excerpt from this article:

From an evolution perspective, human communication is optimized for face-to-face interaction–in small groups and in real time. Conversations are a delicately choreographed dance in which speakers gather constant feedback from listeners, and vice versa, about whether their points are getting through. The nonverbal cues are just as valuable as the verbal ones, if not more so.

So a phone call is already a significant deviation away from that ideal situation, and a text message falls short even more. In fact, the further you get from unmediated face-time, the more likely it becomes that a conversation will go off track. Missing somebody’s tone of voice can make it harder to detect jokes and sarcasm, no matter how many emojis you throw in…

Psychologists Explain Your Phone Anxiety (and How to Get Over It)


Excerpt from this article:

Sure, the voice-calling function on your phone may now be one of the least important things on there — somewhere behind texting, Google, Facebook, etc. — but it’s still not something you can really avoid completely. For every app that promises to save you a call, there’s a situation that requires one: You can book a restaurant reservation or a doctor’s appointment online, but you need to call when you’re running late. You can email a job application, but then you have to wait for the special type of hell that is the phone interview. You can blanket your social-media accounts in political posts, but they don’t count for much if you don’t contact your elected officials, too.

For some people, that’s no big deal. For others, though, picking up the phone takes a Herculean effort: You rehearse what you have to say a thousand times, you dial with shaky hands, you get a panicky feeling in your chest when you hear a ring on the other end.


The Strange Story of Cisco’s (Sort of) Beloved Hold Music

Excerpt from this article (which I sought out after re-listening to The American Life’s podcast episode about this music – – it’s really good!):

You probably hate it. I mostly do. At three minutes, there is this horrifying funky Michael Bolton breakdown played on a xylophone synth… But some people love it!

And if you leave it on in the background while you’re working, just sitting in a tab, and then you turn it off, you may notice a curious absence. Perhaps this tune is better than silence. If you can hear this song, you are still alive.

People record this music, post it to YouTube, and people like Corbett’s father-in-law discover it and put it on in the background while they sweep the kitchen.