Our website is set to allow the use of cookies. For more information please visit our Privacy and Cookies Policy. By continuing to use this website or clicking “CLOSE” you are indicating you are happy with the use of cookies as set out in our Privacy and Cookie Policy.


The decline of the phone call

You know that phone you carry around all day?... the one that allows you check your emails while listening to your favourite album as you alternate between that and updating your Twitter feed? Then maybe, you can nip onto Facebook or squeeze in a couple levels of Angry Birds. Or you can respond to that hilarious picture your friend just sent you. Then you might ‘Googlemap’ directions to the restaurant you’ll be eating at later.

Oh. And you can call people and talk to them. That’s a feature too.


Image by John Stearns

As counterintuitive as it may seem, the rapid development of instantaneous communication has somehow led to a certain disinclination to talk to people over the phone. This attitude is far from all-encompassing, but it’s definitely a mindset that’s leaked into the way people approach phone calls in both professional and personal situations.

Professional Phone Calls: A Thing Of The Past?

With the ongoing standard of open-plan offices with little to no enclosed space, a constantly ringing phone or two would be incredibly disruptive. In any case, phoning someone in a professional context is rarely, if ever, not planned ahead to some extent. These days, contacting clients or other businesses by phone is far from the norm – conducted only if in-person meetings or email prove inadequate. Even then, Skype is the preferred method of liaising with international clients or colleagues. Even urgent messages are usually conveyed by email, perhaps with a request to phone at a specified time.

In a professional context however, this is somewhat understandable. It’s easy and often more efficient to send someone an email containing every detail they need to know rather than explaining things over the phone, especially since most people have instant email notifications enabled on their computers and phones that make it likely they will see such messages right away. Emailing someone rather than phoning allows the recipient to reply when it’s convenient for them, instead of being pestered for a response when they’re likely to be busy. It’s just more polite that way. But is this becoming the case with personal phone calls as well? And more importantly – should it be?

“Just Ringing For A Quick Chat” – Convenience or Irritation?

To some extent, it’s understood that you don’t call people past a certain hour. But the sheer variety of communication options now available to most people has made the act of calling someone directly more of a last resort than it was previously. You send someone an email or a Facebook message if you vaguely want to know how they’re doing; you send someone a text if you want to know when they’re free in the next couple of days; and you call someone when…well, when? Not being at work doesn’t mean you don’t want to be interrupted, and just because people carry phones around doesn’t mean they’re free to answer them at any given moment.

Apart from parents or spouses, it’s considered more polite these days to text beforehand to ask if someone’s free for a chat later – unless of course they haven’t responded to a particularly important text or email. After all, if your message isn’t urgent, it can either wait or be expressed in some less direct way. Just don’t leave a voice message – people rarely check those things.

What are your thoughts on the etiquette of phone calls? Do you prefer lots of advance warning or do you find it delightful when someone rings you up unexpectedly to talk?