Voice notes are the new texting
For 23-year-old Eeshta Malhotra, voice notes began as a convenience — she could send them on the go, while walking or driving, and not feel pressured to condense long thoughts into short texts. “What I can say in one sentence often takes me 10 texts to get across,” she says. And bonus: there’s no thumb fatigue.
To a generation that thinks of phone calls as a ‘commitment’ and texting as ‘too normal’, voice notes have become the new way to communicate. Researcher Sumedha Chakravarthy, 23, says “there are certain sounds, emotions and tonalities that text can never fully convey, no matter how many emojis or exclamation points you use.” After all, can a haha or a smiley compete with the infectious sound of laughter?
In Mizoram, young lovers seek out Melody G Fanai, a voiceover artist and singer who has found a new job as a voice-note artiste. Young men and women often approach her to record voice messages. Fanai has professed love, begged for forgiveness, even told a cheating ex-boyfriend to go to hell. “In a text message, you can’t hear expressions of love, sadness and anger. You can say ‘I love you’ in so many different ways using your voice,” she says.
The immediacy of voice notes is certainly part of the appeal, along with the fact that the person on the other end has no obligation to respond then and there. Nishant Shah, dean of Research at ArtEZ University of the Arts, The Netherlands, likens them to “distributed phone calls”. Rachel Rojy (24) uses voice notes only with close friends. “The other person doesn’t need to be available, and I still get to express myself exactly how I want to in that moment,” Rojy says.
Mehak Sawhney, who does research on voice-based media tec- hnology at Sarai-CSDS, compares voice notes to hand-written letters as they are “intimate and allow for the personal to play out”. “It allows us to pay attention to the minutiae of human voice — volume, modulation, pauses, laughter, other expressive sounds.”
While it’s WhatsApp that has made voice notes popular globally, it’s China’s WeChat that was a pioneer. It caught on because typing Chinese characters was quite a pain. Back home too it’s finding favour with older people who find typing laborious. Also, it’s a help when phone keyboards fail non-English speakers. For instance, domestic workers are using them to tell their employers that they’re going to be late or ask which dal they want for dinner. Chaitanya Raj Singh, a 24-yearold social entrepreneur, says, “When you work outside major metros, voice notes make it much easier to communicate with people who don’t have such a good grasp of English. You can talk them through things with ease and it also saves time.”
Pandit Avadhkishor Pandey, a music teacher in Udaipur who offers classes on YouTube, started using voice notes a couple of years ago to answer his students’ questions. “I had about 20 lists of 200 people each who would listen to my voice notes, where I talked about everything, from morning riyaz, to what a taal is,” he says. Now, one lakh people across the world tune in to his voice notes.
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