Monday, October 13, 2014

The Price of Convenience

Recently I had a text conversation with a friend that lasted over an hour.

It was okay; not ideal.  Typing the words, one finger at a time on the tiny screen – switching screens to use : or ; or “ and ” – it took more time than it should have.  Sometimes our thoughts collided and the text bubbles got out of order and one of us got off topic before the other was ready to move on.  Several times one of us had to ask the other: what did you mean by that?  We’d back up and reword again.

I wanted to use the word “preposterous,” but settled for “cray.”

I missed the olden days when I could talk on the phone with a friend and punctuation was unspoken, and words flowed freely from my lips, and interruptions were effortless and one of the quirks that I tolerated in a good friend during an easy yet meaningful discussion.

People don’t want to talk on the phone anymore.  More and more people claim to hating and avoiding it, despite likely doing it for hours when they were younger.  They cite convenience and ease when they eschew talking in favor of texting.

In theory, I get it.  The conversation I had with my friend could have easily been done while I was perusing the clearance end caps at Target, sneaking my way from the toy aisle to that one area in housewares that everybody forgets about and where I find most of my treasures.

Or if I was more adept at texting and could do the talk with one hand down a toilet in my house, scrubbing away my family’s dirt while she unloaded hers onto the screen.

Instead, I sat at my kitchen table in silence and punched out my words in response to hers, enjoying the quiet but wishing we could hear each other laugh instead of sharing LOLZ and hearing the sarcasm without having to type You’re kidding, right?  Dang.  Cray.

I miss my mom.  When I was a new adult she would call and I would sit on the secondhand patio furniture that I kept in my apartment, painting my toenails and telling her that I made her lasagna for dinner and expressing my shock that it was such a large amount and I would likely be eating it for the next two weeks.  I learned how to cook over the phone, that windows needed to be washed periodically, and that a civilized person really could not do without a good tailor.

Now my mother rarely calls anymore; she’s able to run more errands and get more work done due to the convenience afforded by technology.  I can almost hear the world rush by her car window when she calls, my name on in a list of many that she checks off when she drives to the collect the dry cleaning.

When my husband and I met, he had just landed a new job, and they set him up in a hotel for a couple of months.  Ours was a long distance romance, and the hotel phone bill soared as we chatted late into the night about our hopes and dreams and those times we did those things we regret.  His company was gracious enough to know that our romance was fated from the beginning and forgave us the bill.

Now he texts from his parked car at the end of a long day: Just lvng b home @ 630.

You may chalk this loss up to the perils of familiarity in a marriage, but I maintain that convenience is to blame.

We’re out of practice.  No more do friends call to chat on a slow afternoon.  It’s all business, and more abbreviated than ever. Meet for lunch @ noon?  Sat ok for GNO?  Yah thx.

We’re not able to totally hide our poor spelling ability with texting, and we expose our rudeness when in the presence of others, every lull in conversation permission to pick up our screens to see who else is talking.  Worse, we endanger others when our attention is diverted by the convenience of instant conversation when on the road.

Most people argue that convenience is a good thing.  We’re doing more because we can; we’re not tied up by a phone cord, and conversations can’t drag on via text because it’s too cumbersome.  We are more efficient than ever, getting our point across or making an order with a tap or two.  We can easily beg off with a “gtg” because we are at checkout, or entering the movie theater, the doctor’s office, or class.  We don’t have to exercise real grace, manners, or politeness anymore; abbreviations are substituted for real emotions or reactions.  OMG!!! and xoxo, srsly.

Nobody seems to mind.

For now, I’ll be riding the waves of progress most of the time, and exhausting my efforts by swimming against the tide when I feel indignant.  When I can, I’ll call up my mom and remind her that she still needs to give me her recipe for cheesy potatoes.

And she’ll tell me she’s shopping with a friend, and that I should just Google it.




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26 comments:

  1. I do so miss the phone conversations. I will still, on occasion, have one with my mom. And she lives 0.2 miles away.

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    1. I love that! Gosh, so many hours I have spent getting to know people through their voices. I find it so hard to understand what a person is all about through a series of texts.

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  2. On the one hand, I love the convenience of having multiple ways to communicate. I love that if I think of something when I know that person is away I can email the thought before it slips away. On boring drives with my bluetooth in my ear, I can have conversations that are more interesting than the talk show playing on the radio. At the same time though carrying a device that can do it all is unbelievably intrusive at times. It makes me wonder if that is sometimes the cause of our growing aversion to real phone conversations.

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    1. Yes, I do appreciate the ease of typing off something when I think of it. Unfortunately a response doesn't get to me until much later, sometimes, when I've forgotten I've texted. I also hate to be tied to a phone. I'm home all the time, and I often don't know where my phone is.

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  3. I will admit to being one that does not like to talk on the phone anymore, but now I'm sad about what I'm missing.

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  4. You remind me how much I also miss a real letter instead of an email. One of the reasons I love Christmas cards so much...

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    1. Ah, yes! I used to be so good at writing letters. Now I can't seem to write anything the whole way through without a bunch of crossed-out words and sentences - the consequence of the backspace and delete buttons being so easy.

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  5. OMG I just wrote a piece about taking FB off my phone so I can relate to this.
    Even though this has nothing to do with that.
    BUT I CAN RELATE TO THIS.
    Now I want to call my mom and talk for an hour.
    But I can't because she is on vacation.
    BUT AS SOON AS SHE GETS HOME I TOTALLY AM.

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    1. You totally should. It's the best kind of break ever. And you know what? When my mom would call, I used to grab a rag and dust or wipe down the counter, or sweep the floor, whatever - my house was always so clean! Also my neck has a permanent crick in it from holding the phone against my shoulder, but whatever.

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  6. I'm with Elaine - not only do I miss long phone calls, but I truly miss the long lost art of letter writing. Maybe I should start writing people letters and see what happens?
    I do talk to my Mom - in some form, every day. We often do talk on the phone, usually at night after Kidzilla is in bed and life has calmed down a bit for the day. I'm glad of that. Maybe we do it because she did it with her Mom. I don't care - I miss it when we don't. But I will admit that on days when we don't or can't talk, I like having the quick text letting me know she's going to be "off the grid" for a couple of hours and is safe. I like being able to "talk" via e-mail on a day when we don't have common times free. Maybe I am lucky and have the best of both worlds.
    That said, here's one for you - my BFF (how silly, right?) and I have always been able to do conversations via text and not lose any of the inflection, sarcasm, humor, etc. It's kind of amazing. I think it's because we spent twelve years working together every day plus advising after-school activities. Different now that we don't work together anymore. I miss her. And the text thing somehow doesn't happen nearly as often...we have to actually plan days to get together on purpose because we don't have the benefit of seeing one another so frequently, even if just in passing.

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    1. You do have the best of both worlds! I get a little overwhelmed though, with all the choices - did I text my mom, and should check that, or email her, or did I leave a message? I often can't remember.

      I agree that texting is something you get used to - we all have personalities that come across in every form of communication we choose. I just miss hearing voices, I think. The real ones, obvs. ;)

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  7. I am one of those people who don't really like talking on the phone anymore. But, I abhor texting just as much because it takes so long and I am always making typos. I prefer emailing, but that requires two hands and these days, I rarely have use of both hands at the same time. The best would be of course, being with friends in person. I miss my one-on-one breakfasts with my friend. Sigh.

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    1. In person meetings are the best. And Skype and Facetime don't count - ugh so much worse than texting. My face was not meant to be seen through a screen.

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  8. You took this right out of my brain:). I hate texting. I hate calling a friend, leaving a message and 5 minutes later getting a texted response!

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    1. I hate that too. I also hate it when I leave a message and people text: "Did you call me?" and they obviously didn't listen to my message, which usually tells them why I called in the first place.

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  9. Ah yes, I feel the only people that call at the land-line now are just sales marketing people. I Skype with my fiance if not our phone bills will cost two sets of kidneys. I am not keen on texting especially here where people tend to shorten everything and I ended up not being able to read the message.

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    1. I know what you mean. I have a hard time with abbreviated words and don't enjoy using a short word when I want to use a long one. And the whole auto-correct thing... grrrr...

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  10. I say that I hate talking on the phone, but I really do love it when a good friend calls to check in on me, usually because she's worried or sometimes because she just wants to chat. So I try to remember that feeling and force myself to pick up the phone and check up on someone. And I never regret it.

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    1. Yes! See? Talking on the phone is good for the soul. :)

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  11. This is an example of why I am bad at talking on the phone. I WANT to do it, just like I meant to comment on this post when I read it yesterday. But then I get distracted, and lo and behold, it is 15 hours past when I originally read it (or meant to call someone,) and I am again sitting with coffee and thinking, "I need to comment/call/etc." I need to work on it. I miss conversations.

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    1. I am terrible at picking up the phone to call, because when I do I'm usually in for the long haul, and I often don't have that kind of time. But I answer the phone every time it rings because - it could be anyone!!

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  12. I can sit for HOURS on the phone with my father. I absolutely love it. One of us will think of something else and the next thing you know it's been two hours. It takes a long time to fill him in in on all the stuff he's missed since I last spoke to him (usually 2 days before).

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    1. Yes! Can you imagine having that conversation over text? It makes my brain hurt. I don't want to read about your day in snippets on a small digital screen - I want to hear the long version, with your voice, your laugh, your emotions. I don't even mind if you eat lunch while we talk.

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  13. I just wanted to tell you (though you may have noticed) that I have caught up on every single blog post from both of your blogs because I missed you. Although I would never dream of calling.

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    1. And miss all my random thoughts that I edit when typing into my computer? You're really missing out.

      Thank you for catching up. xoxo

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