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Phone Calls Are the Antidote to the Golden Age of Bailing
07.28.17

According to The New York Times, we now officially live in the “golden age of bailing.” We’ve all been there; you’re six episodes deep into Glow and you realize you don’t feel like going to your co-worker’s Christmas in July-themed pool party, so you fire off a quick “Sorry, I can’t make it” text, guilt-free.

What a paradox! That shiny, slim smartphone by your side is capable of bringing people together (you received the invitation to the pool party on Facebook), and yet it’s the very reason we’ve become so accustomed to flaking. However — and this may sound too easy, not to mention retro — it can also be used to bridge the courtesy gap, tighten friendships and connect: Don’t forget that your handheld computer still makes phone calls. I know! I can hear you groaning, but stay with me. Chatting on the phone enhances my life in so many important ways that text messages, emails and G-chatting absolutely can’t.

I cherish the intimacy phone calls bring. My friends lead busy, crazy lives. Getting together for happy hour or brunch isn’t always the easiest or most convenient way to connect, so phone calls are the next best thing to hanging out IRL.

Phone calls save time. It’s much quicker and easier to dial up a friend about dinner plans than it is to volley roughly a million text messages about what we’re in the mood for. Sometimes a two-minute phone call can get the job done better.

I also love the spontaneity of a phone call. It makes my day when my seven-year-old niece drops a line just to say hi or when my mom randomly calls to bounce around theories about the last Game of Thrones episode. It’s a joy to hear their voices unmediated by the flatness of text or email.

Because I work from home, there are days where my longest conversation is with my cat about whether she’s a good girl or not (she is). As an extrovert, it’s a treat when I get to pick up the phone and make customer service calls or schedule doctor’s appointments. It gives me a tiny connection to the outside world. I always try to make the person on the other end of the line laugh and it always feels so rewarding when they do. But if you’re in the other camp — if you’d rather do your own dental work than make a phone call, maybe doing these things will help put you at ease:

Make a phone date (then stick to it)

If possible, agree on a time to talk in advance so you don’t have to worry about catching your buddy when she’s busy. This works especially well for my friends who live in different time zones, have little kids or any other situation where their leisure time is in short supply.

Turn off distractions

Do your best to minimize any other attention stealers. Pause the braid tutorial on YouTube, mute TV and close the laptop. Don’t scroll through Instagram, either. Not only is it inconsiderate to your friend, but it makes it easier to give your full attention, which means you get more out of the interaction.

Be clear about why you’re calling

Be explicit about why you want to chat at the start of the call so that the person on the other end of the line can adjust her expectations accordingly. If you want to vent about your day, say it. If you want to just say hi and have no real agenda, communicate that, too.

Watch the clock

Sure, you can have marathon phone calls with your best friend, but for most people, less is better. Long talk sessions can be overbearing and emotionally draining. Set a time at the beginning of the call so that you both have an “out.”

Practice good listening skills

Since you don’t have facial cues to react to, you have to work a little harder at being an effective listener on the phone. No matter how excited you get, try to let the other person finish her thought before you begin yours. If you’re lost, ask your friend to repeat herself rather than become an “mhm” zombie. Again, this is as much for your friend as it is for your enjoyment. A fun phone call means engaging in actual conversation. And if you feel like you two have said it all…

Know when to end the call

It’s better to have a short and sweet conversation than a dragged-out one. Once you detect the signs — which can be as subtle as a resigned sigh or as overt as a declaration of needing to attend to other things — wrap it up.

Do you despise making phone calls? Or do you love them as much as I do? Anything else you’d suggest to make phone calls a success for everyone involved? Tell us in the comments.

Anna Goldfarb is author of the humor memoir, “Clearly, I Didn’t Think This Through.” She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and their three-legged cat, Eleanor. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram. Photos by Louisiana Mei Gelpi. 

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  • Reading this, I realised I only ever use a phone call for talking to my parents and the doctors/dentists. And even those conversations are less than 5 minutes.

    Charmaine Ng
    Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

  • notinlondon

    Ah, I remember the good ole’ days when I’d talk for hours on the phone. My best friend and I would stay pretty much silent, as we watched shows “together”. What a time middle school was. Le sigh.

    • Amelia Diamond

      omg me and my friends would 4-way call each other and then “hang out” for HOURS.

  • Hayley

    I personally dislike when anyone calls me to just talk. The only people I don’t mind calling me are my parents.
    I repeatedly tell people to not call me unless it’s urgent or an emergency, yet I get phone calls at 3:30PM on a Friday to “just say hi”? No. Don’t call me for that.

  • Talking on the phone definitely seems like a lost art nowadays. My husband and I met 14 years ago, and spent HOURS if not DAYS on the phone. I had the longest, curliest phone cord attached to the kitchen phone on the wall, and when we went wireless, I would hoard the charger and both phones in my room just so we could talk about the most mindless things. Ah, love. We STILL talk on the phone multiple times a day, and I love making and receiving phone calls from my friends. It is definitely easier to express emotion (or panic) on the phone, especially when you need a good venting out. And you can actually HEAR an LOL on the phone, rather than wonder if your friend actually ends every single text with ‘lolz’ or ‘haha’ by default, or thinks you’re really funny. I am pro phone call all the way

    • xp84

      I was the same way in like 2001-2004 — I must have racked up an absolutely insane number of minutes talking on the phone, mostly with my then partner. It was wonderful. Today I don’t spend more than a few minutes most weeks on the phone, and even then it’s mostly talking to some customer service or quick calls like “When are you going to be home?” etc. Friends don’t call or want to talk on the phone anymore. I miss it.

  • Coconut

    I love a good phone call. It’s actually the only way to stay really close to many of my friends after moving far away. Everybody being away from home or in a long distance relationship will know that a good phone call once in a while can never be replaced by just texting, social media or sending memes back and forth to keep close relationships alive.

  • Lil

    I love phone calls! I rarely text unless to make quick plans with friends. But when I want to catch up with a dear friend or if there’s good news or bad news I need to share instantly, I call a friend.

    But also keep in mind work hours! So I’ll try to call during lunch or when I know they’re off.

  • It depends who’s calling. I don’t get to see my best friend as often as I’d like to because of different schedules, so sometimes we have really long phone conversations and they’re amazing. It feels like we’ve just hung out. I’m always happy with a call from my boyfriend, but they’re usually short & sweet since we live together. I kind of hate calls from anyone else though.

  • Anne Dyer

    I love voice texts… It’s like the perfect way to leave someone a heartfelt message or share a story without having to interrupt them with a call ❤️

  • DA

    I love phone calls! As an introvert I take full advantage of the privacy settings on whatsapp, so no one’s the wiser if i conveniently pretend to have not seen an invite. I don’t like being lost in a sea of people and inevitably bumping into vague acquaintances. The awkward life updates feel so insincere. I hate social platitudes and the polite insincerity required to deal with most social gatherings. Phone calls are the modern equivalents to human touch. They’re personal enough to convey a sense of earnest interest in the other person without the unwanted extras of socialising in public. And quite frankly if I can do it in pyjamas it’s a definite win for me.

  • Marcela Sp

    I miss phone calls so much! I remember spending hours on the phone with my closest friends growing up. It has actually been until recently that I do not talk on the phone with many of my friends. Luckily, my boyfriend doesn’t mind phone calls and will call me after work or class, which I think is pretty sweet/nostalgic

  • arthuranddaughters1

    I love a short or long phone conversation with people I’m close too what I can’t stand is VOICEMAIL. Argh. Please don’t leave me a voicemail!! If you called and I missed it I can see that in my missed calls and I’ll call you back. Oui!!

  • I love chatting on the phone with old friends – though it never seems like enough time to really catch up! I live across the country from some of my friends and every few months we do a phone call, but how do you fill in so many months of life into an hour long call? It makes me sad, but it’s much more fulfilling than texting or seeing the random post on Facebook – those have much less meaning other than seeing what they’re up to.

    http://www.shessobright.com

  • Emma

    Talking on the phone with friends/sister/mum are the best hours for me! I disagree on the assumption that “Long talk sessions” is a problem though, itz the GOAL:-)

  • The Glamourista

    Considering reconsidering my position on phone calls. I avoid them these days because I always seem to be in transit, or in an open plan office, or its too late, or too early… but am I not trying hard enough? I do miss the long chats of my teen years and early 20’s before text messages and social media. Am I short changing myself with text and email? #foodforthought

  • Megan

    I love phone calls. I just moved to a new state which has felt pretty isolating. Talking on the phone has been so great for feeling connected to all the people I care about. They’re scattered all over the place, so it’s nice to be able to keep in touch. As much as I love texting, actually talking on the phone feels so much richer and warmer.

  • Getzmore

    FaceTime, Skype, Facebook calls, Line, etc… they’re free and you can choose video or audio only. Why is paying for a phone call better? *Scratches head

  • Keith Marshall

    I used to love the telephone but now I rarely call anyone and even more rarely answer. I let voicemail get it. Most phone calls tend to be someone with an agenda or a problem trying to involve me.

  • irene harvey

    sweet jesus, do NOT bring back the phone call! even the sound of the phone ringing (mercifully rare these days), sets my teeth on edge. it’s precisely the “spontaneity” of this intrusion that freaks me out. i won’t even let my husband call me, lol. okay, i’m an introvert, but in my defense, i have logged way too many hours listening to friends or family members rattle on about absolutely nothing. it’s exhausting.

  • Yvette Cardozo

    How many times have I texted someone that we just need to talk on the phone. It’s faster, it’s more efficient, it’s less strain. It WORKS.

  • Douglas

    The very fact that such a discussion is nessisary shows how people have become so disconnected. Our communication has digressed to a form of hieroglyphics. Where people can feel good about themselves by avoiding any real honest communication.

  • No examination or even basic acknowledgement of the way text, email, and chat services have made communication a quadrillion times more accessible to people who /can’t/ do phone calls. No, a quick two-minute phone chat is /not/ easier than a hundred text exchanges. Not for everyone. And I refuse to accept the implied blame for the collapse of civilization as we know it.