There have never been more ways to contact and communicate with people than there are right now. Never. So why do I feel more disconnected than ever?
Texting, Twitter, Facebook, G-Chat, Instagram, FB Messenger… That isn’t anywhere near a comprehensive list, those are just things I’ve used personally in the past week or so to talk to people. And what do they all have in common?
I never hear anyone else’s voice.
I don’t mean voice in the grand existential sense of who they are, I just mean literally, I don’t get to hear them speak.
Some people prefer that (social anxiety and whatnot). Messaging (which I’ll be using as an umbrella term from here on out) certainly has its advantages. It gives you time to be (more) clever and witty (than you probably would be in person). You can think carefully about what you say before you say it, avoiding knee-jerk reactions. It’s easy, it’s convenient, and you don’t have to stop whatever else you’re doing.
That’s my problem with it, though.
Total disclosure: I have a huge (HUGE) phone bias. I prefer talking on the phone to any other means of communication. I want to hear your voice, I want you to hear me laughing, I want to be able to make noises and sounds without having to worry about how to fucking spell them. I don’t want to be doing other things while we talk. I want you to have (and feel) my undivided attention, and I want to feel that back.
Actually talking to a person (with my voice) helps me feel hugely connected to them, because it’s how I communicate with the most important people in my life. It’s an unspoken statement that you are more important to me than multitasking, and I am willing to devote however long we are on the phone to just you.
Now, I’m not talking about a lot of time here. There are a couple of people I talk to almost every day, usually just for a few minutes at a time (on a smoke break, in the car, etc.). But more can be done and said in a few minutes of talking IRL than simply messaging. Noticing the message, thinking of a response, typing, waiting… It takes time!
I’m also not totally hating on messaging as a communication technique. It has its purpose. To let someone know you’re running late, to ask a quick question or two, relaying information so the other person doesn’t have to write it down (phone numbers, addresses, etc.). As far as I’m concerned, though, that’s about as useful as it gets.
I wish more people were phone people. A few years ago I called a friend of mine out of the blue. We were close, but pretty strictly texters. I was in the car, though, and I had been thinking of him, so I thought I’d just call him for a minute to say hi and tell him that. It was the single most awkward conversation I’ve ever had. He was nice, of course, but there was a question in his voice the whole time we exchanged Hi’s and How-Are-You’s. He never asked it directly, but it was clear as day: Why are you calling me?
Does something have to be wrong for me to call you? I get it. It’s strange. And a little out of the blue at first. But fucking adapt. No one is making you pick up the phone. The same pressure to message back right away doesn’t apply to phone calls. Not a good time? Don’t answer. It’s ok. I promise. Call me back whenever is convenient for you. Or pick up and ask me if another time would work better. I’m flexible.
It makes me feel majorly disconnected when I feel like I can’t call someone just to say hi. Or that I was thinking about them. Or just to chat. That something so simple yet so meaningful to me is ‘off-limits’ in relationships I consider important to me.
I don’t know how to handle it, truly. There are people I would say I’m rather close to, but I don’t even have their phone number. Am I placing more importance on this than I should? Maybe. I’m also a person who thinks there is a huge difference between a text message and Facebook messenger, so there’s a decent chance I’m just being hypersensitive.
If I am being hypersensitive, though, I’m not apologizing for it. I don’t look to have friends at a distance.
Katie Mack plays for keeps.