Lifestyle

In our youth, the phone was the sun that we all revolved around. As teens, we’d talk on the family phone until our siblings screamed at us or our parents came on the extension and told us to “hang up!” The phone was the tool we used to find out a store’s hours or the movies showing at the theater or make reservations at a restaurant. It’s also how we communicated with Grandma and Grandpa in the next state (but only for a few minutes because it was expensive!). Those of us who rated an extension or a line all our own were the rock stars of our group of friends.

From Talk to Text

But as time went on, our kids fully embraced texting and emailing as their chief methods of communication. They, in turn, encouraged us to try it; even our generation succumbed to the ease of hunting and pecking out our messages. Slowly but surely, phone calls became about as outmoded as cave painting and were only dusted off for special occasions … and for those poor slobs who didn’t have pay for texting.

However, now that we can’t have face-to-face conversations with most of the people in our lives, the venerable telephone call has made a huge comeback. To fill the void (dare we say, chasm!) in human contact, young and old alike are hitting that rarely used phone icon on our smartphones more and more frequently and eagerly awaiting the sound of a voice on the other end.

Reach Out and Talk to Someone

According to a recent New York Times article, “There is no substitute for touch, sadly, but the warm timbre of a human voice in your ear is more real, more present, than text on a screen. (AT&T’s old slogan was ‘Reach out and touch someone.’) When you hang up after a phone call, you feel some of the residual glow of having been with another human being.”

In fact, in the wake of stay-at-home orders, the average number of calls per weekday is about double that of a typical Mother’s Day (historically the winner for the highest number of calls each year) and about 33 percent longer than average. Sure, many of us are using video conferencing software, like Zoom and Google Hangouts, to bring groups of people together for birthdays, happy hours, and other gatherings and social media to stay in touch with the masses. But we’re using the phone for those opportunities to gab and catch up on each other’s live.  

Part of the reason, of course, is we have lots more time on our hands. These days, most of us have the luxury of sitting back, propping up our feet and talking as long as we’d like, sometimes until our smartphones run out of charge. But the primary driving force (in my opinion) is simply the human need to connect with those we care about. It feels good to let conversations flow from the important to the trivial and meander naturally from subject to subject (tangents are welcome!). We’re exchanging gossip and recipes, recounting old family stories, hearing each other’s joys and woes, and in the process, going far deeper than simple texts, emails, and emojis ever could.

A Sustaining Trend?

After this pandemic is in the rearview mirror, will we continue to talk on the phone or revert back to those quick “how are you?” texts and liking each other’s posts to stay in touch? It’s hard to say. But we can only hope that some of positive changes that have come out of this less-than-positive situation stick and we find the time, even in the midst of our busy lives, to make these more meaningful (and thoughtful) connections with those we love.