Personally, I own at least three devices that I can use to communicate with someone far away, as long as I have an internet connection: a smartphone, a tablet, and a laptop. When I was in elementary school in the mid-nineties, I only had two options to contact someone who was farther away than I could reach by foot: through snail mail or the house phone. I always had an irrational fear of calling people when I was younger, like when my mom asked me to call my friends across the street to ask when it was okay to come over. Eventually, my parents decided to bring AOL into our household, and they set up an email address for me. Now I was able to quickly communicate through writing, instead of with only my voice over the phone. Subsequent years brought AOL Instant Messaging (AIM), chat rooms, cell phones and, eventually, texting into our lives. It made it so much easier to simply message boys I liked and wait for their responses, as opposed to calling them on the phone. One time, some of my friends called a boy they liked and told him, which I thought was so brave of them!
Luckily, with AIM, we could chat as much as we liked with our friends, but text messaging plans usually only allowed about 200 text messages per month, per person. Several of my friends got in trouble with their parents for texting so much; they did not think it was necessary to pick up the phone and call anyone because text messages were so easy! My junior high years brought MySpace, and eventually, we had Facebook and Twitter in high school. The social media revolution had started. Slowly but surely, phone calls became reserved only for your close family members or for important events. I also started using a Blackberry to send emails to people even when a desktop or laptop computer was not available. Blackberry Messenger was a fun service that replaced AIM for me and many others because we could use it anywhere there was a data connection.
Because I went away to college across the country from California to Louisiana, Facebook became an important tool for sharing what was new with me with one simple status update, and the information when to every single one of my friends at once. Skype was one of the only video chat services that were reliable for catching up with friends and family face to face, and it was especially important for seeing my long-distance boyfriend every night before bed. College was also a place where I was able to meet and become close with people from around the world, so apps like WhatsApp and Viber became important to be able to communicate with them across geographical boundaries and foreign phone plans. With the normalization of the iPhone came the advent of FaceTime, which made it possible to have a video chat on the go over a data connection. Several apps followed suit, and now we have a plethora of options for video chat and for sharing information with hundreds, if not thousands, of followers and friends; Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Snapchat and many more apps of which I am probably not even aware are available for us to use at our fingertips on our phones, tablets, and computers.
If I receive a phone call from someone, it is usually for an important or grave reason. Sometimes I am concerned when I receive calls from people because I assume that something is so wrong or complicated that they could not have just texted me about it. Several companies do not even want to spend resources on having a person available with whom you can speak about concerns on the phone, so it is very typical to receive information by phone through an automated system, or, worse, they only have a recording telling you to visit their website in order to find the answer to your question. No one seems to want to bother with talking on the phone anymore.
For me, social media and texting are great for many reasons, but nothing can compare to catching up with an old friend on the telephone. Since I grew up in a time when that was the only way to communicate quickly across a long distance, I still feel it impolite to talk to someone about important information by text or by social media. I recently became engaged to my aforementioned long-distance boyfriend- we have been together for more than seven years, so several of our friends and family knew that our engagement was an inevitable exciting event to come. On the night of our engagement, I decided I wanted to let some of my closest friends and family know about it first by calling them before making it Facebook official. I had not talked with some of these friends and family by phone for months, if not years, before the engagement because I typically only contact them via texting or social media. I realized how important it is to keep in touch by phone with my closest friends, so I am working on calling more of my friends within the coming weeks to discuss not only my engagement but the new things in the lives of my friends and family.
Landlines seem to be few and far between these days (fun fact: you should always still have a house phone for emergency calls- just plug in any landline phone into a jack and if you dial 911 it will still go through! Lifeguard and first aid training FTW). Does anyone born in the new millennium even know where this icon comes from?
What do you think? For those of you who grew up without the internet or smartphones, is calling people still important? For those of you who grew up only using smartphones, is it necessary to call anyone anymore? Let me know in the comments below.