The Place Of The Telephone Call In Today’s World

With messaging, chatting and social networking becoming more popular, will we see the death of phone calls soon?

Science writer Clive Thompson, in his regular column in Wired, says that phone calls – which are already on a decline, will eventually be used only for deeper sorts of discussions. Other than that, texting, chatting and social networking will take its place, with today’s generation already preferring these mediums to interact with each other. Clive says these are superior modes of communication to a voice call:

These new forms of communication [texting, chatting, and social-network messaging] 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.

The telephone, in other words, doesn’t provide any information about status, so we are constantly interrupting one another. The other tools at our disposal are more polite. Instant messaging lets us detect whether our friends are busy without our bugging them, and texting lets us ping one another asynchronously.

Clive predicts that as more and more people migrate from voice calls to other media, we will be calling less but talking more.

Most people I know coordinate important calls in advance using email, text messaging, or chat (r u busy?). 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.

Wired: “Clive Thompson on the Death of the Phone Call”

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