Last Saturday night I was home, as per the new “pandemic” normal. I was missing friends and decided to call one of them. Without a pre-warning message or text to see if she was home, I called. No video, just the phone. I did use WhatsApp to call instead of the phone, but other than that, it felt old fashioned. Part of this is because since the pandemic started, and the advent of available video calling, regular phone calls are rare. Even rarer is to stay on a call more than a couple of minutes. We gabbed for at least 30 minutes before I had to go and do something else.
As I hung up the phone, it reminded me of a time when the phone used to just be for calling people. A time when all you could do on the phone was talk and listen. Phone calls used to be treated as something urgent, or important. Now, every beep, ding, chirp, or buzz from a phone receives the same sort of urgency. We used to wait around for calls before we had answering machines, especially ones we could access remotely. Slowly, then faster, new forms of technology arrived that made it easy to move around while waiting, or maybe not, for that call. Except now, the call can also be an email, message, tweet, post, video call, anything really.
The methods have changed and along with it, so have some of the sentiments. A phone call used to be an event. Or a focused time to connect with someone, especially if that person lived far away. Now, it’s all too easy to be multi-tasking while talking on the phone, only partially invested in any one thing. Video calls, which have become the new de facto “phone call” cause burn out. This is because people now use them so much to work, stay connected, visit others, etc. since the pandemic started.
I do love the ease of video calling. It’s definitely been a salvation during the pandemic and many, many long lockdowns. However, I still appreciate a good, old-fashioned chinwag on the phone with a dear friend, once in a while.