Are Phone Calls Becoming Obsolete?

Are Phone Calls Becoming Obsolete?

Will the many alternative forms of long-distance communication phase out phone calls for good?
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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.

Cover Image Credit: Christopher Bowns

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A Letter To My Best Friend On Graduation Day

What are you suppose to say to your best friend on graduation day?
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Have you ever heard of a fairy tale? Where two people meet and then everything else seems to fall into place. Well here’s how this one started: two little girls in preschool, sitting in a little room, with other little people. The teacher comes over and starts to hand out frosted cookies and bunny coloring pages for us all. Somehow, somewhere in here, the two little girls became best friends.

Now, I don’t want to tell you some fairy tale story, because fairy tales aren’t really true, right? So here’s what I really want to tell you.

What do you say? I mean really, what are you supposed to say to someone whom you’ve known for almost 15 years? And this someone isn’t just anyone. This someone is your best friend. Someone you’ve gotten used to seeing every day during the week. Someone you looked forward to seeing every day. What do you say?

Well, I guess I can start off by saying thank you. Thank you for being there when I needed someone to just listen. It doesn’t matter where we are in this world or in our lives, I know you will always be there to listen. As I will always be the same for you. Thank you for always being my best supporter. Thank you for not judging me for my sometimes poor decision-making skills. Thank you for late-night conversations. Thank you for remembering every inside joke we have ever created. And I mean every joke! Even if I don’t always remember them. Thank you for being brutally honest with me when I am being ridiculous.

Thank you for respecting my values and opinions, even if you disagree. Thank you for loving my family like you love your own. Thank you for fighting all of life’s battles by my side. Thank you for celebrating all of the exciting moments of my life with me and the many more to come. Thank you for forgiving me every time I might not have been the best friend in the entire world. Thank you for all you’ve taught me, even if you didn’t realize it at times. Thank you for always sharing your crazy stories with me. Thank you for being there through all of the significant others that I have mistakenly chosen. Thank you for listening to my long stories as though you haven’t already heard them a million times. Thank you for being strong when I was weak. Thank you for sharing your secrets with me, and for keeping mine. Thank you for sharing the past fourteen and a half years of your life with me. Thank you.

I honestly cannot believe that high school is over and soon we will both be going our separate ways in life. It’s hard to fathom that we won’t live a few houses down from each other anymore. Only on weekends when we are home from college. It’s going to be tough, but it’s OK. Because I know that no matter where we go in life, whether it’s a quarter mile away from each other or halfway across the world, you’ll always be my best friend. I’ll never come across someone who will be able to take your spot as my best friend. We’ve just got to remember that even though we change and we are both finding our own places in this world, nothing will ever change so much to the point where we’re not still best friends. Later on in life I know I’m going to be able to look back and remember that you were the one who lifted my head when I was losing faith in myself. I know I’m going to remember how you were that one person who knew who I really was. Most importantly, I know I’m going to remember that you were that one person who made the biggest difference in my life.

There really aren't enough words to even begin to describe how much you mean to me. We have the highest expectations for each other and I know that you will be successful in anything you choose to do. Writing this to you is hard, because honestly, I’m scared to admit how truly sad I am to know this will be the end of school with you. There are so many things that I will miss about you next year, from how much of an angel you were to your contagious smile. There’s no one else who can make me laugh so hard that my sides actually begin to kill with pain. I’m going to miss the countless hours we would spend playing Mario Kart and Wii Fit. I’m going to miss you sitting in my kitchen eating cookie after cookie. While you may be one of the craziest individuals that I have ever met in the last 14-and-a-half years of my life, I know you will always be making others laugh if you’re not there making me laugh.You always manage to light up a room. You’ll forever be the life of the party and you never fail at making everything interesting.

It’s going to be hard not being able to run up to each other every day and share our crazy stories or rant about something that just happened during the previous class. I know there will be times after a long day of classes or work when I wish I could just head over to your house, plop down on your bed in your room and play Mario Kart while we talk about our day. I want you to know that whatever happens, whoever you become and whoever the future shapes you to be, I will always be here for you. Whether a drive or a phone call away, I will always be here. We may not be able to spend the next few years seeing each other every day, but I know that you will make a huge impact on those who meet you in the time to come.

The past 14-and-a-half years of my life have been fantastic. I want to thank you for simply being the person you are and for letting me have the honor of being your best friend. I will see you up on that stage when we sit there in the gym at Carrabec High School for the last time together. As soon as we march out that door, you can bet that I will be the first one to run up to you and hug you, and probably cry, and tell you that we made it. Here’s to an amazing future and to a lifelong friendship.

Back to the fairy tale thing for a moment. Now that I think of it, I don’t see why I called our friendship in the beginning a fairy tale. Fairy tales have happy endings, right? Well, our friendship may be a happy one, but it will never have an ending.

Cover Image Credit: Jeff Pouland

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I Use The 'Block' Button Shamelessly And Frequently, You Should Too

I unfollowed Rob Lowe because he tweeted that "Lindsey Buckingham is Fleetwood Mac."
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As anyone who knows me personally knows, I am pretty petty. However, I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing, because it saves me from being fake and pretending to like things I hate. This is especially true when it comes to my practices on social media. I enjoy social media because there are people I like to keep up with and see what’s going on in their lives, but on the other hand, it can be a huge time drain and stir up a lot of unnecessary negative feelings.

I have always been pretty selective with my Facebook friends list--criteria include I have to know you personally, but with the pressure to create an “image” and have a following on social media, I’ve ended up with many people in my feeds that I don’t know well or even like that much. So, I’ve been doing a bit of social media spring cleaning and following that notion of “get rid of anything that doesn’t bring you joy anymore.”

I also decided to keep a running list of reasons why I’ve unfriended/unfollowed/blocked people, in an effort to inspire you to also embark on your own social media purges and only keep the people and accounts that actually matter to you around.

Twitter has this great newish feature that allows you to mute words/accounts from ever appearing on your timeline, even if they’re tweeted/retweeted by someone you follow.

Here are some of the accounts I’ve muted, plus some of the reasons why:

Anything from/about the Kardashian-Jenners. #sorrynotsorry

Donald Trump. If it’s important enough, somebody will tweet a screenshot of it.

Rob Lowe (Chris Traeger on ‘Parks and Recreation’) because he tweeted “Lindsey Buckingham is Fleetwood Mac.”

Brooklyn 99.

The Walmart yodeling kid.

“Gorls.” I didn’t really love "Despicable Me" and I don’t get that meme.

Kanye West.

Here are some things/people I’ve blocked/unfriended/unfollowed on Facebook:

Religious pages.

People who I was friends with because we went to high school together but haven’t actually spoken to in years.

People I don’t know who post excessively in groups I’m in.

People who are unnecessarily rude in the comments section.

People that I was friends with out of obligation but really don’t like.

Was it petty of me to write an Odyssey article about this? Probably. But was it really petty of me to rid my feeds of any of these things? NO!

The very fact that we worry about unfriending or following someone is problematic. Social media should be a fun tool to keep you in touch with friends and family, people you actually care about.

So try this: the next time something comes across your feed that makes you go “ugh,” unfriend that person, and watch the important things from people that matter to you start to become more visible in your feed.

I promise you: it’s liberating and it’s good for you!

Stop obsessing over what your virtual “friends” think and curate your social media experience to be something positive for you, instead of a time drain, a chore, or another negative aspect of your life.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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