Voice notes are the new tex­ting

The Times of India (Mumbai edition) - - FRONT PAGE - Ke­taki.De­sai@ times­group.com

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.

Full re­port on www.toi.in

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