If you're one of the many people afraid of bad longterm health effects from cell phones, you may be relieved by Clive Thompson's claim: fewer and fewer people are actually making calls, and when they do, the calls are short. The reason for this is what you'd expect. Constantly being connected over email and instant messaging, fewer people feel the need to have long, catch-up conversations. And he argues we should welcome this:
We’re moving, in other words, toward a fascinating cultural transition: the death of the telephone call. This shift is particularly stark among the young. ... This generation doesn’t make phone calls, because everyone is in constant, lightweight contact in so many other ways: texting, chatting, and social-network messaging. And we don’t just have more options than we used to. We have better ones: These new forms of communication have exposed the fact that the voice call is badly designed. It deserves to die.
The problem with calling, he argues, is that it's an interruption. You never know whether someone's available to talk, and the other person doesn't know what it is you want to talk about. All this, Thompson writes, argues for a revamped role for the telephone:
Our handsets could also use a serious redesign. If they showed our status—are you free to talk?—it would vastly streamline the act of calling. And as video-chatting becomes more common, enabled by the new iPhone and other devices, we might see the growth of persistent telepresence, leaving video-chat open all day so we can speak to a spouse or colleague spontaneously. (Some Skype users already do this.)
Or, to put it another way, we’ll call less but talk more.
Is he right to see phone calls as rightly on the outs?
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.