Long ago in a galaxy far, far away, phones used to ring. And ring. And ring. If you didn’t answer it, people thought you weren’t there. And if they thought you were there, they had no alternative than to drop by and see for themselves just to tell you you hadn’t answered your phone. Glad those days are behind us?
Then came the answering machine. The ringing sound became limited to just a few repetitions and not answering the phone was no longer considered rude because “screening” calls suddenly became acceptable. If the caller suspected you of being home, however, you might hear them squawking, “If you’re there, pick up,” making you feel like a heel.
Phone company voicemail freed you up even more, giving the caller options and permitting him or her a longer time-frame to leave one of those “detailed messages” some people don’t like to leave because they’d rather speak with you in person and others DO like to leave so they’ll never have to talk to you at all.
As for written communications, up until email caught on, business letters were still tapped out on IBM Selectrics or fancy word processors, printed up and sent snail mail. Business letters still were, however, considered “impersonal” as compared to picking up the phone. Emails were meant for cursory messages at first, then they became the norm. And texting? Don’t get me started.
All of this makes me realize about how much people deem acceptable as communication has changed since my college days. So much so that when I see someone getting frantic over a slow download on their phones or freaking out over having to actually talk to someone on the phone instead of leaving a voicemail, I just want to laugh out loud.
Because I write for Forbes five times per month, I felt I had to address this at least once, in a blog titled Choosing Communication Methods Wisely for Your Small Business. But I didn’t get to rant about much because Forbes might think I was a whiner and not a serious professional blogger. So I had to ask myself: what do I miss about how communications used to be? I can wax nostalgic about how voicemail, email and texting moves things through space more quickly than I ever thought possible, but I can also admit that I like getting responses and closure on communications faster rather than slower.
I can say I miss talking on the phone but — truth be told — I prefer emails to phone calls because I can get so much more accomplished with a few sentences than I can over the phone, where I feel the obligation to ask about the state of someone’s business, family, health, etc., before telling them the reason for my call. I know, I know. I shouldn’t complain about etiquette, but I am such a results-oriented-chick-on-a-deadline I sometimes have to remember to be social.
While I guess I can’t complain, in so many ways I miss the pace of life when I was younger. Phones rang until you answered them and letters arrived in mailboxes for you to rip open. There wasn’t much in between, and you didn’t know any better. I guess that’s like saying I miss the simplicity of the ‘60s when in reality, those years were rife with racial discrimination and the Vietnam war. We just didn’t know how it would all play out.
So I have to look at it this way: If the simplicity of those days were still the norm, you wouldn’t be reading this blog, which I so love to write. And I suppose I’d just have to rest my case.