There was a time when the parting greeting to a friend was, “Call me.” It meant that at some time the friend would make a telephone call and set up another date to meet.
In it’s day the telephone revolutionised life. No longer having to wait for letters to be delivered sped up social interaction. The ringing of a phone was a strident demand to be answered and the very first call made on March 10, 1876 by inventor Alexander Graham Bell was an instruction to Mr Watson, “Come here I want to see you.”
Ever since, telephones have continued to boss our lives. Older people still cannot possibly ignore a ringing phone. It was only in the 1980’s with the the rise of the telephone answering machine that we were empowered to screen our calls and decide whether to answer the call once we heard whose voice was on the other side. Around the same time caller IDaa enabled us to look at the first ever telephone screens and see the number of the caller before choosing to answer.
So when cellphones first appeared they were essentially mobile telephones. Wireless devices that we could use anywhere. Voice remained the medium of calling and because a person could be anywhere it became etiquette to ask, “Can you speak now?”
According to the American Nielsen ratings, 2007 was the moment when the voice call fell from popularity and for the first time ever more text messages were sent than telephone calls made. Voice calls have continued to decline worldwide.
That is why we no longer call them cellphones but rather devices, because making calls is no longer the main application. We email, we text, we check the weather, the stock market, the news and our health. We read books and even use our devices to get directions. I for one, no longer own a separate Global Positioning System (GPS) , because the GPS manufacturer now sells an app that does everything on my phone for cheaper. I used the money I saved on the cheaper app over buying a separate GPS to get a power bank which keeps my phone alive whilst I am travelling.
The question arises who we are becoming as people no longer so keen to talk as to text?
As a writer I know the power of text, but I also know that text has to be carefully crafted and if shot off without reflection or editing is bound to create havoc, conflict and misunderstanding. Racial slurs and embarrassing photos sent to hockey moms are just some recent South African blush-bloopers.
The cellphone networks have fuelled the transition to text from speech. First Mixit and currently WhatsApp are cost effective ways for ordinary people to avoid the prohibitively high costs of making cell phone voice calls.
But what will happen if we only communicate in brief bursts of text? What will our relationships be without prose and poetry?
OMG, BTW, FYI, I’m out of words.