Death of the phone call

My wife gives me a hard time because I don't love making calls - or receiving them, for that matter. Turns out I'm not alone. Clive Thompson writes about the ever-shrinking number of calls we're making, along with the ever-shrinking amount of time spent on each call (average length is well under two minutes). No wonder a good portion of smart phone users aren't bothered about the lousy reception they receive (and not just on the new iPhone). They're simply not bothering to use the feature. From Wired:

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. Consider: If I suddenly decide I want to dial you up, I have no way of knowing whether you're busy, and you have no idea why I'm calling. We have to open Schrödinger's box every time, having a conversation to figure out whether it's OK to have a conversation. Plus, voice calls are emotionally high-bandwidth, which is why it's so weirdly exhausting to be interrupted by one.

Already we're seeing a new kind of social protocol in which people only use the phone for significant communication - and only after they've emailed or test-messaged each other about the best time to talk.

Indeed, I predict that as this sort of hybrid coordination evolves, it will produce a steep power law in the way we use voice calls. We'll still make fewer, as most of our former phone time will migrate to other media. But the calls we do make will be longer, reserved for the sort of deep discussion that the medium does best.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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