IT’S A SLIPPERY SLOPE THAT STARTED WITH THE CORDLESS, NOW IT SEEMS WE’RE ALWAYS ON CALL – WE’VE BECOME SLAVES TO OUR PHONES
Idistinctly remember my family’s first telephone. It was bright red – fire-truck red – with a dial face and our phone number was 86 4431. The phone had the traditional ringtone... which was the only ringtone. When it rang, it sounded like a phone, not a techno rave.
I rarely used it, save for the occasional call to the 2LM radio station request line on a Saturday night. Kids didn’t have free reign of telephones in those days – a phone call was something you had to ask permission to make and required details of who you were ringing and why. To have a conversation in private, you took 20 cents to a phone box. Oh the teenage memories of hanging out in that little glass cubicle, feet up on one glass wall and back against the other. It took effort in those days to make a call, and there was an etiquette about making them.
When you phoned someone, it was at respectable hours. If they weren’t home or available, it was up to you to try again. Or wait to see them at school (what a novel idea!). There were no phone calls home from the office. I never once saw either of my parents take a work call at home.
Now though, the phone never stops, thanks to the mobile. Pinging, dinging and ringing like that techno rave, with messages constantly left.
No longer is there a thought about ringing at a convenient time. The onus of the return call is now passed on to an equally busy person at the other end.
Now that people can leave a message, send a text and an email to match, the burden of the return phone call is enormous. The return phone call request passes on one person’s urgency and priority to someone else. I’ve started placing strict boundaries around my phone and enforcing some phone etiquette for my own sanity. Don’t take offence if I don’t ring you back. It’s not you... it’s everyone. My phone stays on silent unless I’m available. I’ve stopped answering the phone outside of work hours, so if you ring me when I’m doing the school run, cooking dinner or pushing the shopping trolley, you won’t get me. And I don’t put pressure on myself to return every call – I’d be on the phone all day if I tried. I start at the top of the list and if I run out of time, I work on the assumption that if it’s important, you’ll call again or send an email. Now, as for those emails... I’ll get back to you on that topic later.