New Phone Manners- Rev. Susan Walker


I recently became aware of how much society has changed around using the phone and the importance of understanding the “new phone manners’ of today.

Many years ago it was frustrating to go to work and see piles of phone messages requesting a return call. Back then I wished I knew why they were calling so I could decide which ones were most important and if they really needed to talk to me. Calling people back always took so much time and quite often the call could have been handled by someone else if I had known ahead of time what they wanted.

I remember in the 1980s when my office got voice mail I thought it was the greatest invention of all time. My message to callers would say “Please leave a detailed message” in the hopes that they would tell me all about it in the message. This way they could get right to the point and maybe I could call them back and leave a detailed message on their voice mail with the answer. This would save a lot of time and I wouldn’t have to get caught up in a lot of unrelated chit chat. I’m not much for small talk and this worked much better for me. I appreciated voice mail back then because it saved me time and energy spent in wandering conversations where the main point was diluted by talking about other things that were really not related to the call like the weather or how life was going that day. Back then it was not good manners to go straight to the point. You had to engage in polite conversation first and this always took time.

That was then but today my view of voice mail has changed completely. All the technology we have enables us to get more done but now we have so much more to do as a result! I still have voice mail today but I hope people understand that it is not good manners any more to leave long messages. Who has time to listen to all that? As a matter of fact, it seems that society is rejecting voice mail today. My daughter let me know that no one uses voicemail anymore so stop leaving messages! Today people just look at their missed calls and decide who they want to call back. Many people today do not even set it up on their phones anymore and you will hear this when you call “This number has a voicemail box that has not been set up yet – goodbye”. I don’t get many voice mail messages today and I’m glad about it.

The old school phone call is becoming a thing of the past although we are on our phones now more than ever! Why call when you have so many other ways to communicate and get right to the point with a written word that helps keep track of who said what? Email, text messages, Facebook Messenger, etc. enable us to talk to more than one person at a time which can be tricky. During multiple conversations at the same time it is important to pay attention so you don’t hit “send” to the wrong person. It does make communicating easier in that we can talk to people while in a meeting or watching a good movie on TV.

We have created a culture of multi-tasking where real time conversation on the phone between two human beings is no longer the norm. The new phone manners are that you don’t invade a person’s privacy by calling them unless you have permission! Today you need to send a message that says “Can I call you?” before you dial that number. The main reason my phone rings today is telemarketers trying to sell me something. Somebody needs to tell them times have changed. If you really want to sell me something send me an ad targeted to my tastes on Facebook.

So if you didn’t know about the new phone manners – now you do. If I see a missed call I’ll probably send a text message or email to ask what’s up unless it is a member of my family or my church. For those closest to me, the new phone manners do not apply.

Rev. Susan Walker is the Pastor of Emanuel Reformed Church and a Special Contributor for L Town Radio.

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