Phoners vs Emailers

My name is Lisa and I’m an Emailer. A Texter. A DM-er. A PM-er. A Messenger-er. A Whatsapp-er. I’ll use anything to communicate with you but I won’t pick up the phone. Unless I really have to.

By and large my friends are the same. We exist in the same zone of communication. There is a tacit understanding that we don’t want to be lurched into a live conversation that will catch us off guard, unsure of how to respond, suddenly finding ourselves agreeing to things we don’t want to agree to, with no time to think and decide what to do.

It goes with the territory that we’re all into social media – posting messages on our newsfeeds for friends to respond to in their own time, or not, without the horror of the out-of-the-blue ‘I NEED THE ANSWER NOW’ voice call.

However, it has to be said right now that some of these friends do call me just for a catch-up chat now and then, and there is an undeniable sense of warmth and happiness that results from those calls. I always think, “I must do that more often,” but then don’t. Part of me thinks the other person is busy doing other stuff and it’s just rude to interrupt; part of me just can’t bring myself to do it. When someone says, “Just give me a call about that,” my brain turns that statement into “Just send me a text.” I can’t help it.

In a work setting it’s different. These days, my phone barely rings but if it does, it’s always one of about three or four people. I always know exactly who it will be, either from the time of day or whatever’s going on. I linger, guessing who it’s going to be, and I’m always right. My first thought is always, “Phoner. Why can’t they just email like normal people?” I’ve even set up my voicemail so it asks them to do just that. Nope – they carry on phoning, leaving message after message, while I’m sitting in meetings – they appear to do everything to avoid the written word.

I sometimes wonder if this is because they have a problem with the written word. Some Phoners find it hard to articulate things in writing (I’ve found), and I would say I’m better in writing than I am with the off-the-cuff spoken word. I wonder if this is about a clash in communication skills, more than anything.

Whilst to me, the Phoner appears to be a dying breed, day after day in London I’m astounded by the number of people walking along seemingly talking to themselves, talking and laughing into phone mics. They seem so happy to be sharing the intimate details of their life with everyone around them (I know, I can talk…) and it almost seems like an expression of arrogance to be able to talk about their cupcake fetish, or whatever, with all and sundry. They seem to enjoy catching my eye as they shout the lurid details into their phones.

I think I may well have been scarred for life by phones by a Toxic Person (see previous blog) who used to call me for a friendly chat, but then after a while, would start laying into me. Once she’d had a child, she always used to end up saying, “it’s alright for you, you don’t have to care for a kid,” or somesuch. I’d think, “it’s a choice, love, don’t take it out on me.” But she did. And it didn’t stop at that, suddenly everything I had and did was wrong – my husband, where I lived, my job, my looks. Nothing escaped.

I used to dread those calls and started having ready-made excuses to cut them short. When I picked up the phone, I’d announce straightaway that I could chat, but I was going out in 20 minutes. She started to say, “it’s alright for you, you’re always going out!” Yeah, love, to get away from you. Needless to say, she was my first proper bit of life laundry. I knew that my real friends would never make me feel bad about myself, but she went out of her way to. I just stopped answering altogether.

She did have one very weird habit, that is nothing to do with the subject of this blog post, but it’s always been a mystery to me. Whenever I visited her up north, she’d give me a lift to the train station. Every single time, she deliberately delayed the homeward lift so that I was panicking about getting the train. I realised she quite enjoyed making this happen so I stopped showing outward panic. I’d just sit there calmly as the clocked ticked by, as she ‘just’ did this and that to delay things further. Finally I resorted to giving her false train times. I’m seriously at a loss to know why she did that, and I do know other people that do it, but now I know how to handle it. It’s extremely weird and controlling.

Anyway – back to phones. I know other people are phone-avoiders because they’ve screened when I’ve called (even on Christmas Day) and then fabricated a really obvious excuse as to why they didn’t pick up. It’s ok! I get it! I don’t like phone calls either! When I was married, my husband used to light up a cigarette every time his mother was due to call (the same time every week). For a while I was duped into answering for him, then I realised what he was doing and just let it go to voicemail. He even used to ask me to phone in sick for him.

People are really phunny around phones and it’s not just me. When I’ve tweeted on this topic I’ve had a barrage of ‘me too!’ replies that have convinced me that it’s a dying art. Of course, there are situations where a phone call can do the work of a thousand emails but I’m fine with that. There’s a purpose to it. But what really makes me laugh in these scenarios is that it can take ten emails to arrange the phone call, in which time you could have solved the problem by email.

So… which one are you? A Phoner or a Emailer?

Written answers only, please.

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Interesting piece on phone-loathing:

http://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2014/oct/16/social-anxiety-mundane-terrifying-psychology-stress

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