Back in the day before everyone had iPhones I would spend hours on my Motorola Razr talking to friends late into the night or making prank pizza delivery calls on the landline. When texting and FB messenger came along, I quickly began to loathe the less nuanced form of communication. I felt there was too much room for misinterpretation when you were sending messages on the go, and the cumulative seconds we have texted the response “kk” has probably added up to a million wasted lifetimes. The etiquette around texting isn’t standardized – what you think is normal texting (not responding for 2 days or sending a stream of eggplant emojis 🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆) may be seen as rude to someone else. But most of all, texting results in this weird ongoing conversation that never seems to end (some people might like that, but I don’t).
A while back I tried to break this habit by vowing only to make phones call to people. This proved pretty challenging. People don’t pick up the phone, and when they do, the response is “why the fuck are you calling me right now, don’t you know how to text?” My response is always, “why did you pick up the phone, asshole?” This is said without a trace of annoyance, but out of love. Nonetheless, my new call-only rule reduced my digital communication with friends to approximately zero.
I’ve recently found a middle path, and I think the Buddha would approve. Instead of calling, I’m sending a lot of short 30 second to 1 minute voice messages, which you can do through a feature on FB messenger and Whatsapp. This allows people to catch the nuances of what I’m saying — and surprisingly many people leave voice messages back. The difference between a phone call is that the voice text is usually shorter, but also that you can respond to the message whenever you want. It’s easier to make your point and — call me human — I like actually hearing people’s voices (crazy, I know).
Apparently it’s not just me, and voice is seeing a come back. On China’s WeChat messenger app that has 1 billion + users, voice messages make up a whopping 16% of all messages sent and over 200 million voice texts are sent every day. I really hope that the trend continues. Frankly I’ve been finding it a lot more enjoyable to send messages now, and I feel a lot more connected to people.
Getting started with voice chat: People may find it uncomfortable to send voice texts at first, to which I would say: if you find it uncomfortable to actually talk to people, then you might want to seriously investigate why that’s the case. I suggest your first try it with a couple of close friends you’re comfortable with, or even better, maybe with someone you just met who doesn’t know how you typically communicate. Just say, “by the way, I only do voice messages.” You’ll quickly get over any fear of hearing you own voice, and you might just rediscover how we’ve been communicating since…well, pretty much forever.