On a radio program last week, a journalist pronounced the imminent death of phone conversations. It’s on its last legs, robbed of its livelihood by the cold-hearted text message, she declared. She went on to describe the eerie quiet that’s taken over office buildings because no one’s calling each other anymore. Soon, voicemail and phone calls will be obsolete. There was an edge of sadness in her voice. Or was that coming from me?
I love hearing a human voice on the other end of the phone. The warmth, the connection – it reminds me that there’s life beyond a computer screen. Being a freelance copywriter, I spend an inordinate amount of time working alone. When the phone rings, my heart leaps, “Who could it be?!” I sometimes unnecessarily prolong conversations just to continue the connection. And when I call customer service, I always press 0 to talk to a live person.
The T Word
Text messaging may be taking over, but I’m not a texter. I’ve only sent one text my whole life. Yes, you read that right – just one. It’s not that I come from a long ago generation; I grew up with cell phones and the internet. It’s that I prefer live conversations, listening to the sound of someone’s voice, sharing. Texting just doesn’t give you that experience.
When it comes to communication, 90% of what we notice is body language and the sound of the person’s voice. The actual words account for only 10% of what we pick up in a conversation. Since texting can only serve up words, they don’t have the same emotional impact.
The writing is glaring at me on the wall, though. Texting is taking over, and one day I’m going to have to hand in my phone badge and start marching with my shoulders hunched over, thumbs tapping away. Texts are fast and efficient – a perfect match for our hectic lives. Here in Canada, we have the distinction of being one of the most avid texting countries in the world. Though, I wonder if they’re adding to the general disconnection many of us feel.
That deeply gratifying feeling of being understood by another person is difficult to come by through texts. Meaningful relationships take time. They need patience and space to grow. They also require taking risks. Our relationships can only be as deep as the risks we take to connect with each other, and ultimately it’s worth it.