Phone Friends: Headed toward Extinction?

Published: March 23, 2011 | Last Updated: March 23, 2011 By | 10 Replies Continue Reading

Be honest. Do you cringe when the phone rings? Check Caller ID and get annoyed when someone, even your BFF, calls when you’re in the middle of something? Prefer talking when YOU want to rather than when SHE wants to? Do you send a quick text or email with the hopes of avoiding a lengthy phone conversation?

If these tendencies sound familiar, you’re not alone, according to an article in Friday’s New York Times by Pamela Paul, Don’t Call Me, I’ll Call You (March 18, 2011). Aided and abetted by new technologies, phone calls and phone friends are becoming a dying breed. More people are switching to text messaging, which is less intrusive and less time-consuming. When phone calls do take place, they’re more likely to be scheduled in advance, at a mutually agreeable time.

Paul writes: "Whereas people once received and made calls with friends on a regular basis, we now coordinate such events via e-mail or text. When college roommates used to call (at least two reunions ago), I would welcome their vaguely familiar voices. Now, were one of them to call on a Tuesday evening, my first reaction would be alarm. Phone calls from anyone other than immediate family tend to signal bad news."

Her description of the sea change in communications between friends and relatives resonates with my own experience. About a year ago, my son told me that the only people he speaks to by phone are his parents (us) and the cable company. At the time it was a revelation that I attributed to Generation Y behavior but his remarks were prescient. Since then I’ve witnessed a gradual shift in my own communication patterns with friends. While there are generational differences in the use of technology and social media, with younger people being more anti-phone than older people, personality factors also influence an individual’s preferred style of communication.

Some of my friends are old school, calling regularly (usually during dinner or when I’m deep into writing) and leaving lengthy voicemail messages when I don’t answer. Do they realize it might be silly to leave a voicemail message asking me to call back when the missed call message on my cell phone would have done the trick?

Other friends have made the shift cold-turkey: limiting phone calls to when the conversation is too long or complex to be conducted over email—or when they’re prohibited from texting because they’re operating a moving vehicle. Yet sometimes I miss hearing the sound of their voices or having spontaneous conversations that leave me laughing out loud while I’m relaxed on a couch in the family room.

Also, I’ve been meaning to mention how frustrating it is to stay connected with friends who are totally off-grid, never reading email or opening text messages. Admittedly, I’m totally digitally addicted. But a case in point: I can’t even send them Pamela Paul’s article because I know they’ll never even open the message.



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  1. alex96 says:

    My own experience, her friends and relatives in the communication between the earth-shaking changes show that the resonance. About a year ago, my son told me over the phone, he said the only people who were his parents (us) and cable companies. At that time it was a revelation, I attributed to the behavior of Generation Y, but his remarks were prescient. Since then, I saw a friend in my own gradual transformation of the mode of communication. Although the elderly and young people over the anti-cell phone, technology and social media in the use of generational differences, personality factors also affect a person’s preferred communication style.

  2. Irene says:

    I know exactly what you mean. Part of it is a timing issue. Just because the caller is relaxed and has time and interest in chatting at that moment doesn’t mean you do!

    My best,


  3. Christina says:

    I like phone calls.

    I find that emails actually are a big time waster for me because I spend too much time editing and rewriting what I have typed.

    It’s like I suffer from OCD when I am typing an email. I want everything to be grammatically perfect, spelled correctly and well written.

    For me phone calls are just sooo much easier. I can cover a lot more conversational territory with a phone call, than I can in an email.

    And how text messaging got to be so popular, I don’t know. Short little messages back and forth to (and from) someone doesn’t cut it with me. Boring!

    Even an email is better than that.

    • Sheena says:

      Christina, my mama is lonely and looking for phone friends to talk to. She is 78 and Christian. Please let me know if this is anything you would be interested in. Thanks, Sheena

      • Irene says:

        Thanks for your post, Sheena.

        I just want to remind you and other newcomers that this site isn’t intended to introduce people to one another or to exchange any personal information. There are other sites on the web that do this.

        Rather, it is to discuss and provide information about friendship to help people make and keep friends.

        Best, Irene

  4. Elena T says:

    I am a person who talks to the phone with my mom, my sister once a week and …that’s it…….with friends probably once a month…….

  5. Deborah says:

    I could have written this. I feel guilty and sad that I see favorite people on the caller ID and don’t want to pick up the phone. Maybe I’m just not in the mood to talk, or not in the mood to listen, or just wanting to incubate a bit during my short evenings.

    I recently had a call from a long-time friend who lives in another state and after listening to her talk about the reason she called she asked how something was going for me. I had a headache and wanted to get off the phone and I was rather abrupt doing it and she burst into tears and I had to call her back and apologize which made me feel, again, guilty and mad at the same time.


    What to do?

  6. Anonymous says:

    We don’t like having conversations because we feel we can have them in other ways, but nothing, I mean nothing compares to actually talking to someone, and in person. I hate to sound like a young cromudgeoun (spelling sorry), but the reason most people don’t feel like they have real friends or real relationships is because instead of dealing with gritty and real parts of relationships like talking, we often are passive and wonder why our friendhships fade. Technology is not making people really more connected, some feel more connected, but most feel less. There is a reason why….. People used to run to get the phone because otherwise you would not talk to someone, now we hide from real interaction because we are too selfish to actually engage.

  7. Tina says:

    I only talk to two people on the phone: my best friend who lives in another state and my mom. Mom doesn’t have a computer or cell phone, so all our communication is by old fashioned telephone. With my friend, we text daily and talk every week or so, but never randomly calling, but texting to schedule around her career and young daughter, my two part-time jobs and boyfriend, plus an hour time difference. Sure beats when we were teenagers back when ten cents a minute was a great deal on long distance.

  8. Sunny says:

    This is SO relevant! I have a big love-hate relationship with a ringing phone. Once I’m into the conversation, I relish it. There’s nothing like laughing with a friend in person. And today, “in person” means on the phone, doesn’t it? But when I hear it ring, I never want to pick it up. And I also cringe when I call someone and they don’t pick up, because I know they feel like I usually do. And yet, I still see people, young and all ages except for seniors, yakking on their cell phones constantly. So, I guess some people are still talking on the phone. But not when they are at home, is that it? Maybe one reason we don’t like the idea of talking on the phone is because we are afraid we will get “stuck” without an escape. That we won’t get to hang up when we want to; or that we will be kind of forced to respond to comments or questions. After all, a face to face conversation requires participation. With e-mail or tweets, you can pick and choose what you want to respond to.

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