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Why don't you ever pick up your phone?
January 9, 2010 8:51 AM   Subscribe

Don't-Like-Using/Answering-the-Phone People! I know you're out there. Now I'd like to know your reasons for avoiding the phone.

Alrighty, so I'm not a phone person. That is - when the phone rings I am not inclined to pick it up. I don't particularly enjoy calling people either. I have a few friends who also stopped being phone people. The thing is, we all remember as kids running to phone whenever it rang in, and being glued to the phone for hours, talking to our friends about God knows what.

I'd like to know how common this, and perhaps if there's anything about the current technology that affects people's description of themselves as a phone/not a phone people. (For example, is the fact that cell phones mean you can be contacted at any time affect how you feel about phones? Does the fact that you can now see who is calling you make a difference? Are the alternate forms of technology giving you options, which helps because you were never a phone person?)

In short, I'm curious about your reasons for avoiding answering the phone when it rings, and using it unless they 'have to'. Were you always this way, or did you stop being a 'phone' person at some particular time?
posted by anitanita to Human Relations (105 answers total) 63 users marked this as a favorite
 
Yup, that's me. I don't think I was always that way. I remember talking for hours on the phone in high school. But I'm not really a chatter anymore, would much prefer communicating by e-mail or IM.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:52 AM on January 9, 2010


Not really a phone person, and never really was a phone person. With cell phones I text more than I call, and I e-mail more than I text. I think I just prefer "slower" (i.e. not so instantaneous) modes of communication because it gives me time to think. Also, I'm quite introverted.
posted by oracle bone at 8:55 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I loved the phone in high school. I am not a phone person anymore. I like email and IM just fine. I believe my current objection to the phone is that it doesn't ring at my convenience, that it takes all my attention when I am on it (there are only a few activities I can do while on the phone, and I can't always stop it to do something else for 3 minutes then come back) and that -- as caller id is limited -- I do not know who is calling before I answer. It all seems to come down to phone being a method of communication I have less control with, compared to other ones.

I do not know if I would have been like this had everyone I known had the internet in high school.
posted by jeather at 8:56 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Me too. Did it in high school; loathe it now. I think a lot of it is that now, I would mostly be talking to people I don't see often, or don't even know, rather than people I saw 2 hours ago (like in high school) -- and I much prefer being able to see people's faces. You'd think Skype would help, but not really...
posted by kestrel251 at 8:57 AM on January 9, 2010


I used to talk on the phone quite a bit when I was in college, but these days I prefer IM communications simply because I can drop in and out of the conversation at my liesure, instead of being restricted to the phone. Also, I can do a whole lot of other things while I talk online, whereas the phone forces me to focus solely on it and nothing else.

I think part of why I switched was that when I was in college, I commuted an hour each way from my house, so I used those 2 hours in the car to talk to people. Now that I work out of my home, I have a whole variety of things to keep me occupied.
posted by omnipotentq at 8:57 AM on January 9, 2010


I rarely answer the phone, because it's usually someone who wants something. I don't want to chat with you, I don't want to hear about your day, and I don't want to tell you about mine.

I forget who it was that said it, but way back when telephones were the Big New Thing, a host at a dinner party leaped up to answer a ringing phone and a guest exclaimed, "Good God, you come when it calls?!"

Sums up my feelings exactly.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:59 AM on January 9, 2010 [13 favorites]


I'm not a phone person anymore, either. A big part of it is that I'm a lot busier than I was when I was a kid, and it's hard to get work done while on the phone. Both email and IM require only that I type out a quick response before I get back to what I was doing until a reply comes through, and people usually understand if your responses aren't instant.
posted by katillathehun at 9:00 AM on January 9, 2010


Mostly just because of my anxiety and my moderate hearing loss in both ears. I don't remember always being this way, but I would say that it's because technology hasn't always been conductive to alternative forms of communication on a mainstream scale so I didn't get to choose.
posted by autoclavicle at 9:00 AM on January 9, 2010


I hate the sound quality of cordless phone conversations. I stopped being a phone person around the time everyone started switching to those. I'm sure part of it was just outgrowing the long-winded teenage stage, but I do feel like it was easier to hear every word when we used corded telephones. I think cell phones sound even worse but maybe I remember corded phones sounding clearer than they did and/or I'm just losing my hearing.

It also seems like many people prefer the less intimate (?) ways we communicate (texts, IMs, and emails). A lot of people say they express themselves better in writing. As that's gotten easier and more common, we've all started talking on the phone less.
posted by juliplease at 9:01 AM on January 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I agree with everything jeather says.

Plus, phone audio quality is really pretty crappy. We have high-definition video, internet conferencing, etc. But when you pick up a phone, it's still basically the same not-as-good-as-real-life quality as it's been for a long time.

And if either party is on a cell phone, that's even more true.

I also find that people with cell phones tend to talk when they don't really have time/attention to be talking, which is frustrating. And, yes, I've been guilty of this too.

But as more and more people use cell phones (often exclusively, and especially people my age and younger), it's become a matter of everything that's annoying about cell phones being true about phones in general — since for many people phone = cell phone.
posted by veggieboy at 9:02 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I fully loathe talking on the phone. I try never to do it; email and texting are almost always good replacements (except with respect to my parents).

For me, the major issue is that I have not had a land line for close to 15 years. Cell phones don't seem to be fully duplexed--if both people are talking, one person will "step on" the other person, and their signal will not go through (same goes with my conference calls at work). I find this terribly annoying. Plus, the fidelity just doesn't seem as good. This all may just be a false impression, but it suffuses my use of the phone.

I also am not a big fan of video conferencing.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:02 AM on January 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


I will usually answer, if it's someone I like, but I often avoid calling people.

I was really shy growing up, less so now, but still- the experience of listening to it ring, waiting for them to pick up, maybe having to explain who I am and why I'm calling... just not fun for me. I do much better face-to-face, when I can read someone's face and body language.

And then there's the whole drama of other people hitting "reject" and sending me to voicemail, not returning calls- it just leads to all kinds of unpleasantness. Email is nice because you don't expect an instant reply and there's less pressure. (Although I also hate writing unpleasant/confrontational emails, because then I spend the rest of the day/week/month worrying about what mean thing I will get back. In that case I would call or confront them face-to-face, to get it over with.)
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:03 AM on January 9, 2010


My case is (demographically) fairly rare: I'm the daddy. I have a wife and THREE teenagers, so the ringing phone is virtually NEVER for me.

But yeah, even before parenthood, I had been conditioned to be somewhat ringing-telephone-averse because (as has been said) it was usually somebody wanting something from me.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 9:05 AM on January 9, 2010


Not a big phone talker.

For example, is the fact that cell phones mean you can be contacted at any time affect how you feel about phones?

Nope. I love texting. I think you can accomplish in a few txts that take 10 seconds apiece what a 5 minute phone call would take.
posted by inigo2 at 9:06 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am not and have never been a phone person. I don't like the way it interrupts me and people expect me to answer regardless of what else I've been doing, and I don't like interrupting other people or expecting them to answer regardless of what else they've been doing. I don't like small talk in general, and especially not with random people who are expecting things from me and interrupted me in the middle of what I was doing. Most of all, I hate losing the body language communication of being able to see somebody. Especially when I'm talking to somebody socially, it's really frustrating to not be able to tell if they are bored or enthusiastic or trying to get rid of me. I tend to lose track of things I mean to say on the phone, and I think part of that is how much of my brain is used up trying to figure out social cues without enough information.

Email is great because it can be written and read at each person's convenience. I can lay out exactly what I mean to say, take as long as I need to. And if I'm annoying someone they can always just not respond.
posted by hydropsyche at 9:08 AM on January 9, 2010 [19 favorites]


I hate calling people. I'm always afraid that I'm calling at a bad time because my friends ALWAYS answer the phone, no matter what. Even if they're dealing with their children, cooking dinner, driving on icy roads, or fighting with their spouse, they'll answer the phone. Seriously people, just ignore the phone if you're not free to talk.
posted by christinetheslp at 9:09 AM on January 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


For those of up who grew up and moved away from home there are also time zone issues:

Me on the west coast and a mom on the east coast who keeps "mom hours" means that by the time I am getting out of work, she is going to bed.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:10 AM on January 9, 2010


I hate people. It's that simple. There's always a person on the other end of a ringing phone. Now, if puppies made phone calls I'd probably pick the damn thing up once in a while. But seriously, fuck people.
posted by dortmunder at 9:11 AM on January 9, 2010 [46 favorites]


Professionally: Personally: One of my best friends is the same way, and it gets ridiculous - once we actually connect we can talk for hours, but scheduling the actual call can take weeks.
posted by usonian at 9:12 AM on January 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


I was never really a phone person. I do have slight hearing loss, but I think the real reasons I don't do phone are:
1 -I tend to try to multi-task. This means I get distracted, and stop listening to the caller.
2 -I like having written references for later. Email & text leave me with these references. Calls do not.

Additionally, there is a big part of me that thinks the way most people I know react to the phone is rude. If I am doing something, the phone will ring. Most people I know will jump to answer the phone, dropping everything as if they are organ transplant patients, and this call may change their life. I do not understand this reaction to the phone. Furthermore, I don't understand when people get insulted that I am busy and don't jump to answer their calls. Text & email messages seem to be acceptable that they will be dealt with later.
posted by kellyblah at 9:13 AM on January 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't otherwise mind talking on the phone or video-Skyping with friends and family. But long ago I un-Pavloved myself from the ringing of a phone. I'd answer if it served me, and let the answering machine get it if not - no more interrupting dinner, a movie, a nap, or having a read on the loo.

But the phone got too attractive and available for scumbags and sleazeballs to pass up, and when auto-dialing hardware got cheap enough for them to use and still make money from folks that would just bend over and take it, we lost the telephone as a personal convenience. What we accept here (US) as 'government' haven't got two balls amongst themselves and they've made the Do Not Call list a f'ing joke. So I live behind a caller-ID and an answering machine, and those callers who don't care to announce themselves with one or the other: f-em. My friends and family know I'll be happy to talk to them. They just need to say "Hi, it's me."
posted by TruncatedTiller at 9:14 AM on January 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm a phone hater too. I was never really chatty when I was wee either (mostly because I didn't have many friends) and by the time I got to high school, we all just chatted on IM rather than by cellphone.

Usually there are only a few people that call me: my family (parents and brother) and those conversations usually are very poor because if it's my family calling--they generally want to bitch at me about something or need me to do something. My brother calls me to chat when he's out and about, and so it's not as horrible. My homie calls me too, but we text mostly since it's cheaper for her. We often have chats while both of us are grocery shopping, just in different states. (We don't see each other often and we both like grocery shopping together.)
posted by sperose at 9:15 AM on January 9, 2010


I put my resume out recently, so I'm getting lots of calls from recruiters. And those calls are always drawn out dances of stupidity, where the recruiter reads off a list of requirements he doesn't understand, and then pretends not to know what rate his client is offering or that his rate isn't serious ($75/hr for the financial sector in NYC? Please.) in order to lowball me. It's a choreographed waste of time that tries my patience. Send me an email, tell me a rate.
posted by orthogonality at 9:15 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


is the fact that cell phones mean you can be contacted at any time affect how you feel about phones?

Absolutely! I'm the only person who answers my cell phone, and it's always with me, so whether or not the caller has an unreasonable expectation that I'm willing to talk to them at any time they want, it feels that way to me when my phone rings and I'm busy. I know that I'm being irrational, but that's why I hate answering my phone unless I'm expecting the call or it's someone I want to hear from.

I feel much differently about land lines--there seemed to be more of a sense of etiquette or at least more reasonable expectations involved (don't assume a particular member of the household will answer, don't call at dinner hour, don't call too late at night) when I was growing up with just a land line and no cell phone--but I don't have one now.
posted by Meg_Murry at 9:16 AM on January 9, 2010


Not a phone person. I used to be, but 20 years in my career have conditioned me. When the phone rings, it's not because I hit the lottery, it's usually a problem. So I'm a big screener, at work and at home. I was recently curious about the commenting policy on my local newspaper's web site. This is something that could easily have been conducted over email. Me with question, where is policy? They respond with link. Instead, because there was no email link on the web site (!) I had to call the editor. It was painful, and I was sort of irrationally annoyed. However, I understand that it is still the gold standard for many people. Hi mom!
posted by fixedgear at 9:18 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Knowing that e-mail and IMs and blogs are out there makes it much more difficult to have phone conversations with friends, especially since I'm the kind of person who forgets why she's calling you as soon as you say hello :P

One long-distance friend in particular seems content to listen to me blather about myself; I get uncomfortable because I don't want to hog the conversation. But that's just how we both are. E-mail doesn't work well because I find myself saving up anecdotes and thoughts for a magnum opus, only to avoid writing it for months because I think I've forgotten something essential, and then I feel like a bad friend. And I'm so used to blogging/IMing with people that anyone who doesn't fit into those parameters kind of misses out on regular contact.

Somehow, though, we've stayed pretty good friends, and I think that's the key. Regardless of what kind of person you are, your real friends will understand.

Unfortunately, you'll always find people who don't understand, whether you have "good" reasons for it or not. In my office we have a cell phone for after-hours emergencies, and some of the student reporters think that "we really want to know about this one thing, even though it's 10:30" constitutes an emergency.

And my mom, bless her sweet little crazypants heart, doesn't understand that having a cell phone doesn't mean she has to answer it, but she should have one anyways because she drives in weird places and wants to be contacted in an emergency (which is kind of the exact reason they were introduced, right?).

Stupid people are universal, regardless of the technology.
posted by Madamina at 9:18 AM on January 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Not a phone person. I don't like calling people for long chats because I never know if I'm interrupting something important, and it's harder to maintain a conversation because of my own distractions and the fact that I am missing physical cues. I prefer cell phones to landlines, purely for usefulness - they help finding people and keeping up to date. I much prefer texting and e-mail because they are much more concise and can be responded to at the receiver's leisure.
posted by fermezporte at 9:20 AM on January 9, 2010


I hate the telephone. Most people now know that they need to leave a message if they want to get in touch with me. Can't remember the last time I answered a ringing phone. Email is SO much better!
posted by blaneyphoto at 9:21 AM on January 9, 2010


I don't like - and have never liked - using the phone for two reasons: firstly, as others have mentioned, I prefer using forms of communication that give you more time to think, and secondly, I don't like the lack of non-verbal cues. I'm not very good at talking to people I don't know in general, but if I have to do it face-to-face, at least I can smile a lot and, if I have to think about something before I reply, it's obvious from my expression that I'm thinking about it - a silence is just a silence on the phone and that always bothers me. (I've noticed that when I do have to use the phone to talk to someone I don't know well, I do an awful lot of smiling anyway - I can't seem to stop myself.) I still prefer not to talk on the phone to people even when I know them well - I just communicate much better if I can either see someone's face or have enough time to write it down.

If I have to phone someone I can at least psych myself up a bit first, but I really don't like answering it because, as others point out, it's an inconvenience to have to reply right then (and what if they ask me something and I don't know the answer? The horror). For the same reason, I hate answering the door - even though in that case I at least have non-verbal benefits, it's still spontaneous interaction with someone I don't know, and that always unsettles me (I hope this is just standard introvert behaviour rather than totally dysfunctional...)
posted by raspberry-ripple at 9:22 AM on January 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


I hate phones, can tolerate communication via IM or email, and have never sent a text message in my life. I don't own a cell phone, and only have a land line out of necessity (emergencies, mercifully brief calls to friends to arrange plans, and the five or six times a year I call my folks). I've just never been able to get around the surreal sensation of having a conversation with someone that I CAN'T SEE. For me, there are too many nonverbal components to human interaction that I lose with any sort of contact that isn't in person.
posted by metricfuture at 9:22 AM on January 9, 2010


I hate talking on the phone because without the reference of face/body language, I'm bad at predicting the proper speech rhythm. People I talk to mostly don't live same part of country as me and so their conversation rhythms - go/no go cues on pauses, for example - have changed to accommodate where they live. I hate having a conversation all patched up with "sorry" "no, you go" "no, you go."
posted by toodleydoodley at 9:23 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


At home, 90% of the time I don't answer the land line. I have caller ID and I never answer numbers I don't recognize or callers marked "private." If they need to talk to me, they leave a message and I call them back. Or not. Or I email them back.

I usually answer my cell but even then I can be selective. Someone calling me does not automatically receive my participation in that transaction unless I am ready, willing and/or able to talk.

Even at work I rarely pick up- I roll it to VM unless I am specifically waiting on someone to call me back. My job is not public-facing, so I am not tied to a responsibility to respond to the phone. I think for me, it's a desire to document issues (for work reasons)... it saves time later and requires people to not try and BS me into doing things they don't want to request via proper channels or without the requisite documentation. I always pick up for my superiors but that's about it.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 9:23 AM on January 9, 2010


usonian nails the professional reasons. My boss is always encouraging me to call people, and it always feels, barnone, awkward, particularly toward the end of a conversation. I usually have to take notes and often forget something I'd intended to mention. None of this happens with email.

I've always pretty much hated the phone. I think some of this is related to a specific painful experience: as a kid, my sister and I were the only ones home when we received word that my father died; even though she was older by five years, she cajoled me into calling relatives about it. It was a really painful experience (one which she doesn't remember, to boot!). I tend to get a little paralyzed about calling people, running scripts through my head even when I'm just ordering take-out. I used to describe the feeling of being on the phone as "being stared at"--there's a specific and intense individual scrutiny you get on the phone which you don't get otherwise.

That being said, starting in high school there have been a few friends with whom I've established "phone friendships", talking for hours. I still keep up that communication with one of those friends, as well as one friend from college and my mother and my sister. Once it's been established that I can have a non-awkward telephone exchange with someone, I'm fine with it--but until that happens, I'd always prefer text or email.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:24 AM on January 9, 2010


Text messages are efficient, as others have said.

I really hate talking on the phone, mainly because I don't know what to expect.

Anecdote: One time at my old job, I got a surprise conference call that consisted of people yelling at me about something that was beyond my control. It gave me a nosebleed. After that, I turned me ringer off and only returned calls after listening to a message. Probably, not the most healthy/professional solution. I do this with my cell phone now if I don't recognize the number.
posted by mmmbacon at 9:25 AM on January 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


When someone calls me on the phone, they're saying "I don't care what you're doing, stop it because I want to talk to you".
posted by DanSachs at 9:28 AM on January 9, 2010 [12 favorites]


I blabbed on the phone all the time thought college and then pretty much stopped. I don't like making phone calls but I'm usually okay with answering the phone when it rings, which is pretty much never. My reasoning sort of goes like this

- Almost all of my friends and family use email/im/postal mail to stay in touch with me because I prefer that
- if you do not do one of those things to be in touch with me, you are either a hardcore phone lover, or you are ignoring my preferences specifically for some reason. In either case, this makes for a less than enjoyable phone conversation.
- a phone conversation that, unless you are my father, sister, boyfriend or one of maybe five old friends, I don't want to have at all.
- this means that when the phone does ring, it's rarely a friend or family member and each year this is even less likely.
- I have had some family members harrass me for not calling them often enough or "well" enough. Now I never call them at all, but at least I'm predictable.
- this means that the person may or may not have any manners or etiquette at all, or has salesperson etiquette which is appearing polite while actually badgering me. I do not like to be badgered.
- I feel trapped on the phone with people I don't want to talk to due to my own manners [dingdingding, this is the real problem!!] especially if they are a friend or family member
- for people I do talk to often, usually we'll email/im "hey is tonight good for a phone call?" and plan it. I find this delightful.

Add to this

- other people like to talk on the phone when theyonly have partial attention for a phone call [while they're driving, or in the kitchen] and I don't like this. I can tell I have only their partial attention and they have all of mine. It sucks.
- I'm usually a multitasker but I monotask when I am on the phone [really, I have a "phone couch" and I go lie down there when I'm on the phone so I'm not being rude and checking email while talking to someone] so phone calls slow down my day a little. Worth it totally if it's someone I want to talk to. Annoying if it isn't.
- sometimes when the phone rings it's strangers from the internet which is okay but occasionally weird
- sometimes when the phone rings its my crazy ex-neighbor hollering for some reason [and yes I could screen his calls but better to get it over with and he might be calling to say my house burned down or something]
- I've gotten used to having a transcript of my communications and it's a little weird to not have that with the phone.

So, I have no problem calling tech support, making dinner reservations or calling on some other "I need something pretty straightforward" task. I do not mind being interviewed over the phone which also sometimes happens. I do not like to call to chitchat. I am like a deer in headlights when someone calls me and is like "So how are you...?" and I'm like "How I am is not wanting to be on the phone for any reason. How are you?"

There are maybe three people who call me often who I do not wish to talk to and without exception they call to complain, commiserate or otherwise sort of monologue at me to the point where I wonder why they call at all. I feel trapped by other people's emotions when they are sort of dumping them on me. When someone tells you about their terrible horrible no good very bad day, I do not know how to change the subject and say "Well I am doing great! I also have to go...." I wish they would email. I realize that being contactable by phone is part of general manners for someone with a job in the US and I put up with it, but I pretty much make sure I don't take a job where phone calling is any big part of it.
posted by jessamyn at 9:28 AM on January 9, 2010 [14 favorites]


Not much of a phone person but rather than preferring text I prefer face-to-face conversation. At work if someone calls me from another room, I will generally walk to where they are to converse with them; I think communication is much better in person. I don't like calling strangers or calling someone to ask for something either. And I learned from my father at an early age that phone calls are rarely important enough to interrupt a meal for.
posted by TedW at 9:30 AM on January 9, 2010


Forgot to add, re this: "Were you always this way, or did you stop being a 'phone' person at some particular time?"

I stopped, as many did, after the teen years. Almost overnight, the ringing phone stops being a signal for fun and starts being a signal of doom. It's a creditor, or work, or my mom, or someone who wants something. I don't answer my door all the time either.

I have a developed a hard-line perception that the knock at the door and the ringing phone = unwanted intrusions and assumptions that I must dance to someone else's tune. I'm not that person. I will only respond on my own terms.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 9:32 AM on January 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


I've never ever been a phone person as far as I can remember. It's always been a source of anxiety for me, since you lose a huge part of the conversation by cutting out eye contact and body language, so it's easier to misunderstand the other person. Unless I'm making plans with someone or I'm expecting the call, I very often will let it roll to voicemail and get in touch later. I never, ever answer a number that I don't know--if it's important, they will leave me a message.

As for technology's effect on my preferences, I think I developed some very bad conversational habits by using email and IM. When communicating in writing, you have the chance to revise yourself, so it's not as important to be able to think on your feet quickly, which can lead to some awkward pauses in conversation on the phone (those are the worst). Also, the fact that all my IMs and emails are logged for future reference is a huge benefit.
posted by kjackelen05 at 9:33 AM on January 9, 2010


When we're little, we're into the idea of the phone because whee it's a magic thing that can let you talk to someone who's not in the room and you look like a grownup when you're on the phone how exciting I wanna do that!

When we're in high school, we're over the "the phone is magic." But if someone calls for you, most likely it's a friend of yours who's calling to chat and chatting is fun and you can catch up on gossip! There is a vanishingly small chance of people calling you for any other reason, so if the phone's for you, that's good!

When we're grown, we are well past the idea of the phone being a big magic thing -- and people OTHER than our friends may be trying to call us. People like the boss, the landlord, the repairman, telemarketers, crazy exes, etc. So a ringing phone no longer means "whee magic machine that lets me talk to people", and it no longer means "whee I get to gossip". It now could potentially mean "Have you looked into a way to update your credit rating" or "We're sorry, but you didn't get the job" or "the estimate on your boiler is going to be $300 for repairs" or "why haven't you called your sister" or whatever, so a ringing phone may no longer signal "fun times." In fact, "ringing phone" could be precursor to "stressful conversation."

And therefore, since the conversation could be stressful, some people like the chance to review what they're about to say so they don't make any mistakes. That's easier to do on paper, or in email. So they prefer it to the phone.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:33 AM on January 9, 2010 [9 favorites]


I hate using the phone at work. It catches me off guard, and if someone's calling with a specific question and it's something I have to look up, investigating takes a lot of time that results in dead air - a lot of "let me check... okay, hold on... hang on, things are still loading... my computer's being a butt... let me check one more thing... okay wait... yeah I'm still here... can I look ino this some more and call you back?" It's a horribly inefficient use of both my time and the caller's.

In addition to email's advantages of convenience and record-keeping, I vastly prefer it over phone when there's more than two people involved in the issue being discussed. Doesn't matter if it's a work issue or if I'm arranging to meet a couple people for dinner, cc-ing everyone is easier and allows for less miscommunication.

I totally don't mind using the phone in personal situations, and I can sometimes chat idly for an hour, and I enjoy that. However, usually I text instead, because the people closest to me text, and often you're just asking a quick question or sharing something wacky you saw, and it doesn't really need a twenty-minute conversation.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:36 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm likely an extreme case, but:

I get a lot of flack for this. For me, I think it's anxiety. When people call just to talk, I end up feeling like I don't have anything to say. Thus, after the call, I feel deflated and like an awful conversationalist rather than feeling boosted by happy happy social interaction. And during the call, I get launched into extreme cognitive dissonance because while I don't want to be talking in the first place, at the same time I'm desperate for the other person not to end the conversation and regret calling me in the first place! I feel like I must keep the other person talking and amused for as long as possible, otherwise I'm some kind of failure. Plus, I absolutely hate having to try to figure out how to end the conversation. This is totally neurotic, but "Well, I'd better go" feels kind of like a lie - "I'd better go" says who? Why? I often can't bring myself to say it until I'm already annoyed by too much chat. Because of this, I usually have to wait until the other person moves to end the talk, which means that when I do answer the phone I'm going to be stuck on it for an indeterminate length of time.

If people are not calling to talk, they're calling to make plans. I'm a standard introvert who is easily exhausted by socializing and yet, I can't seem to say no when people invite me to do stuff over the phone. During the holidays, I end up overbooked and hating it.

Given all this, it's way easier to avoid the phone altogether. I've only had a cell phone for a year now, and only three people have the number. It's not for chatting.

In high school, I remember hoping the call was for me every time the phone rang. I would spends hours talking with friends - until my mom yelled at me to get off. It's pretty ironic that now, I get yelled at to make phone calls and answer the phone.
posted by kitcat at 9:37 AM on January 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


I was a phone person in high school also.
I use the phone, but often avoid it because I often have trouble hearing with it.
I do not use a cell phone like most others do. It is mostly for super short conversations and emergencies.
I don't do IM at all, I must have missed that "age".
I like using email for many of the reasons above.
posted by Drasher at 9:48 AM on January 9, 2010


we all remember as kids running to phone whenever it rang in, and being glued to the phone for hours, talking to our friends about God knows what.

Nope. I remember staring at the phone for dozens of minutes at time, anxiously trying to get up the oomph to make whatever call I needed too. I also remember eventually getting my mom on board with the idea that maybe we could let the phone ring during dinner instead of letting it interrupt our meal.

drjimmy11's the experience of listening to it ring, waiting for them to pick up, maybe having to explain who I am and why I'm calling... just not fun for me nails the reason, I think.

Even with cell phones and caller ID, this still happens. I recently called my landlord for the first time, and I spent the first sixty seconds of the conversation convincing him that I didn't, indeed, have a wrong number, and he was the person I was trying to reach. (He didn't recognize my number, or my name right away; I am subletting; he is slightly hard of hearing; apparently he is unfamiliar with how, in the age of cell phones, having an out-of-state number is common - I have a MD number but live in CA.)

As far as situations where someone knows I'll be calling - easier, but there's still the immediacy that's stressful - phone conversations go faster than text or IM, and pauses are more awkward and less acceptable.

And even (or especially) with cell phones there's the worry that you might not be catching someone at a good time, or you might be interrupting. None-phone-people worry about that. (We might be the only ones.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:51 AM on January 9, 2010


Cell phones definitely affected the way I feel about the phone, along with caller id and voice mail. In the past, if the phone rang, you never knew who it would be, so you had to answer to find out. You could also get away from it; if you weren't home, you weren't home. Now the phone is like an electronic leash. Also, cell phones are not as comfortable to use and hold as an old-fashioned handset.


Other than that...I really started to hate answering the phone once I started having to talk on the phone as part of my job, but that is not so much about the phone as talking to people in general. When I come home from work I just don't want to talk at all. Ugh!
posted by cottonswab at 9:52 AM on January 9, 2010


Such an interesting trend. I fit your description perfectly. I have actually completely turned off my phone at work because no one uses it to communicate any more, except for corporate-wide message blasts about topics I don't care about. If I need to talk to someone, I can go walk to their desk; otherwise, it's all done via email. And it's for all the reasons mentioned above.

And socially, I'm afraid I have to echo BitterOldPunk's sentiment: "I don't want to chat with you, I don't want to hear about your day, and I don't want to tell you about mine." Though I often do write friends long notes about what's happening with me, and enjoy getting their responses about what's up with them, I don't like the immediacy of a phone call. I like to answer when I have time to sit down and think about what I'm going to say.

I have wondered if this is a bad thing for our society, this reluctance to engage directly with people. But it seems like most folks are happy to see their friends and family (and coworkers), even if they don't care to chat on the phone, so I guess we're not really turning into a race of cocoon-people.
posted by TochterAusElysium at 9:55 AM on January 9, 2010


Hate the phone. Professionally, I don't like being interrupted when I'm in the state of flow; it makes me grouchy. I prefer asynchronous communication like e-mail. I like the precision of the written word. I want data to be in a machine-readable format.

Personally, I feel cheated when talking on the phone. Face-to-face communication conveys so much more emotion. Talking on the phone with a friend is like speaking to the ghost of a loved one. I prefer my friends to be within touching distance.
posted by SPrintF at 9:56 AM on January 9, 2010


I've never enjoyed talking on the phone. I was not a teenager who liked talking on the phone. I remember being baffled and annoyed when a new friend called in seventh grade just to chat. I couldn't understand why she'd want to do that. I've always found phones least offensive when they're used to make or confirm plans: brevity is good.

This makes me remember that I had a couple boyfriends in high school who DID GO ON. And on and on and on and on and I was way too passive to just end the conversations. ("What if they stopped liking meee?!" --> I was not a secure adolescent.) Maybe my adult dislike of the telephone has something to do with forcing myself to listen to S. narrate Speed II as he watched it, or getting to hear an elaborate retelling of the Sword of Truth series from J. Hmm. I hadn't considered this but maybe that's why getting trapped on the phone usually feels like a prelude to a hostage situation.

That said, I will talk to my absolute nearest and dearest on the phone. Before we were in the same city I'd talk to my husband for hours, blasting through multiple 45-minute prepaid phone cards. (This was in 2001/2002 and I was a college freshman who was not fancy enough to have a cell phone then.) Now that I live far away from my parents I'll talk to them for hours. There are a couple friends I can stand to chat with but rarely do because none of us are "phone people."

What's sort of sad though is that because none of us are "phone people" I almost never actually talk to these folks. We e-mail, keep in touch via LiveJournal, etc but I do miss having real conversations with them. However, I can't imagine having those conversations over the phone. It's almost like a foreign language, this phonespeak.

Anyway. Still don't have a cell phone because why would I want people to be able to get a hold of me? We'll probably acquire some soon, though. One can only hold out so long against these things.
posted by Neofelis at 9:57 AM on January 9, 2010


I hate talking on the phone. I think I did before cell phones/texting/email, too, I just felt in the minority back then.

It was brought to the surface by having other options. Getting a cell phone never meant I was available all of the time. If anything I screened my calls more with a cell phone. I had previously felt guilty about screening (which started when I was able to see who was calling via caller ID on a landline).

Now I hate listening to voice mail as much as I hate talking on the phone. Just text me!

I guess the last fifteen years of technology has made it more acceptable to avoid talking on the phone, thus it's all the more annoying when I have to.

The reason is mostly because I feel hijacked by the interruption (I can't imagine living in a 1950's world where people just dropped in on each other). And, I worry that I am going to get sucked into a conversation that will go on for more than five minutes (some people who are dear to me are so inclined, and it feels impossible to disengage without being rude).
posted by marimeko at 10:02 AM on January 9, 2010


Wow. And here I thought I was misanthropic and suspicious of technological gimcrackery. I see mefites outpace me by leagues. I really do not talk on the phone all that much, but I lack the horror of it that I am seeing above.

Like many people, I do most of my work in front of a screen. I prefer e-mail for one-on-one business communication, so I can easily go back and check what someone told me eight months ago about some project. However, if it is a straightforward and brief item, I am perfectly at ease with calling. Yesterday I called a colleague to verify the pronunciation of the unusual first name of a new employee, whom I would be meeting shortly. I saw no point to having him try to render it phonetically in text when he could take half a second to, you know, just say it, nor in possibly having him reply an hour after I had already met this person and mispronounced her name.

Personally, I have been involved in a long-distance relationship for some time and we talk almost every day. We use text messages and e-mail as well, but hearing her voice is nice.

Anecdote: a few months ago I was out in the car with my sixtyish mom and we had to pick up her sixtyish friend Sonia. We were picking her up in a distant suburb where my mother rarely goes. My mother had been to our destination only once or twice before and was uncertain of exactly where it was.

After some 30 minutes of driving around with her muttering, "No, this isn't the street either," I asked her why she didn't just call Sonia's cell phone. "Oh, she won't have it on." I then asked if she might at least turn hers on so that Sonia could call us to find out why we were so late and to give us directions. Again she refused: "We don't do that sort of thing." And then we drove around some more.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:02 AM on January 9, 2010


I like a phone for immediate things, like calling my boss. Hey, there's a guy here who says you told him X, but that sounds wrong and I just wanted to make sure before I did it. Or, hey, I'm on the street, but I can't find the house.

I want to conduct business, and then hang up. Not chit chat. Two minutes or less. Longer than that, we can use a phone to arrange a place to meet or an email to send. I guess I think of my cell phone more like a cop's walkie-talkie than a device for having shoot-the-shits.
posted by ctmf at 10:15 AM on January 9, 2010


I loved talking on the phone in middle and high school, same as most other people. College was when I grew out of it, even before I ever had a cell phone. Now that texting is an integral part of my life, my desire to talk on the phone is as low as possible. Since everyone I know texts me to "just chat," I know that if I'm getting a phone call, it's usually bad news.
posted by srrh at 10:20 AM on January 9, 2010


I don't know the reason why, but a ringing phone makes me very anxious. Like many others I prefer to text or email. However, if I have to have what I anticipate to be an unpleasant interaction at work I always go to the phone first because I want to be able to read the tone of someone's voice and avoid either of us misreading mere words. It also takes the fear out of waiting for a response.
What's sad is I noticed that if I haven't talked to someone on the phone for a very long time our interaction seems awkward, like we've lost that element of the friendship.
posted by krikany at 10:20 AM on January 9, 2010


I hate the phone. I've never liked it, but when I was in middle school instant messaging wasn't very common.

In early high school, enough of my friends started to have instant messaging online that I turned the majority of my communication into that. Why?

1) IMing can be either asynchronous or not. I can send my message, and the other person can choose if they have the time right then to respond to me. I don't like interrupting people, and I don't like being interrupted.

2) Saving chat logs means I don't have to remember what the name of that pizza joint you mentioned 3 weeks ago was; I can just look it up. Especially good for complicated directions for me; I just don't take in information well unless I can see it.

3) I have housemates, and am a late night girl. This has been true since I was 14 or so (at twice that age now, I'm less late night, but still enough). IMing is better because it makes very little noise, so it's not going to disturb the housemates if I'm conversing with someone at 3 am. Also, if I'm sitting at my computer chatting in the common area of the house, my housemates won't feel as if they can't come into the room.

4) I have time to think about what I'm saying so I stick my foot in my mouth less often.

5) Neither IMing nor phone gives me much information about the other person's mood, except when they verbalize it. I can really only get this information in person (see above: I don't take in info unless I can see it). But at least with IM, nobody expects me to magically know their emotions, so they verbalize more and I have a clue when someone is upset/exasperated/etc.


Overall, with the exception of my parents who don't really communicate online, I view the phone as a purely a business apparatus. Do not call me unless you need something (directions, telling me you'll be late, someone else's phone number, etc). I will only call you in similar circumstances. If you call me otherwise, I'll presume you need something, and then be rather ticked off when I find you don't. It would be very easy for me to view someone who calls me randomly as needy, and as thinking they own my time and expect me to be at their beck and call. Not good.
posted by nat at 10:22 AM on January 9, 2010


Re work calls, I find it diffeicult not to agree to take on work that I don't have time for over the 'phone. If the request is via email it's much easier to find the right way to say no.
posted by paduasoy at 10:23 AM on January 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Phone calls these days always seem to interrupt me. I like my cell phone better because I can kick it to voice mail and don't have to listen to the damned thing ring until the machine answers.

My hate-on for phones developed while I was working as a legal assistant. My job was client-facing, including taking calls while my boss had people in his office, so I never had the option of not taking a call unless another client was in my office. The phone interrupted my work and I regularly had to tell anxious clients that we didn't have word back from the government agency we worked with, which was no fun either. Getting bitched out by clients by things that weren't under my control probably helped me develop a low-level aversion to answering the phone.

I don't like making calls either, but once I actually dial for a business call and get into it, I'm okay.
posted by immlass at 10:43 AM on January 9, 2010


I was conditioned to hate phones at my last job - I was oncall one week per month, 24 hours per day, and it was common for the calls to occur at 1 or 2 in the morning.

On one particularly memorable week, I had a call at 11:30 p.m., 1 a.m., 2 a.m., 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. And yes, you were expected to go to work the next day, and no, you couldn't ignore a phone call (you could not sleep through it either, it wasn't a valid excuse. If you missed two calls, you were likely to be let go).

Ever since then, I've regarded the phone as a tether, as something to be avoided. For a long time, whenever a phone would ring, I'd flinch and it'd get my adrenaline going. Before that job, I was okay with using a phone, both calling people and picking it up when it rang. Now, it's extremely rare for me to answer my phone when it rings, and I tell people that up front when I give them my number but I'm really good at calling people back.
posted by ugf at 10:45 AM on January 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I am not and have never been a phone person. I don't like the way it interrupts me and people expect me to answer regardless of what else I've been doing, and I don't like interrupting other people or expecting them to answer regardless of what else they've been doing. I don't like small talk in general, and especially not with random people who are expecting things from me and interrupted me in the middle of what I was doing.

This ^^^

Business wise, I'm also bad at making phone calls. One company fired me because the dynamics of the job changed to include making courtesy calls, which I absolutely could not bring myself to do. I can send people emails all day long, because they can open them at their leisure, but I could not bring myself to call customers - even though they were businesses. I told my boss that when she hired me, but she changed the job to include phone calls anyway. Oh well, c'est la vie.
posted by patheral at 10:46 AM on January 9, 2010


I worked telephone technical support for, oh, four years.

Aversion Therapy for any desire to use a telephone ever again.
posted by mephron at 10:47 AM on January 9, 2010


I once wrote an application essay for college about why I hate the phone so much. I got in, too. Go figure.

My basic reasons are:

1) I grew up in a part of the world where our phones were bugged. Someone was always listening in, and there really wasn't anything we could do about it. We had to be really, really careful what we said on the phone. If necessary, we would make a quick call to set up an appointment to meet somebody, and then talk more in depth in person. I guess I've just absorbed the idea that in-depth, personal conversations that reveal private details are meant to be conducted face to face.

2) I get really paranoid if I can't see someone's face when they are talking to me, because I always imagine that they're secretly mocking me or something. I like Skype much more than the phone, because I can at least watch their facial expressions as they listen to me talking.

3) Like several of the commenters above, I stick my foot in my mouth quite often. The problem is exacerbated when I'm on the phone.

4)I also find that people have a hard time understanding me when I'm on the phone. I assume it's because I don't want to be one of those annoying people who interrupts everybody by their loud phone conversation, so I speak much more softly.

If someone calls me on my cell phone, I'll often text them back. If they don't have texting, I'll email them. The only exceptions are my parents. I'm willing to talk to them, especially my dad, for long periods of time.

Phone interviews, for all of the above reasons, are like torture. I usually won't apply for anything that involves a phone interview, because I know from experience that I will utterly bomb.
posted by pecknpah at 10:50 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wasn't a phone person in high school and I'm not really pro- or anti-phone now.

In high school it just seemed like a waste of time. I'd just spent 6-8 hours with someone and then they'd want to call after school to spend another two hours chatting about nothing in particular? What for? I'll see them again tomorrow. Whatever it is we can talk about it tomorrow when we see each other for 6-8 hours again.

Now the phone is primarily for calls with a purpose: to make plans or request or convey some needed bit of information. People don't call me just to chat (let's make plans and we'll chat when we see each other) and I don't call other people just to chat. If the phone rings more than 2 times in a day-segment (e.g. day or evening), it starts to annoy me. Call just to chat would absolutely bug me. You want to chat? That's great. Come over and we'll order pizza.

Also annoying: people who send all their calls to voice mail and then call back. I understand not wanting to allow the phone to be your master and make you drop everything the moment it rings. BUT I see this as a fairness issue. If we're going to talk and make whatever plans we need to make then SOMEONE has to answer the phone. Someone has to allow themselves to be interrupted. People who by policy NEVER pick up the phone but just call people back at their convenience have essentially decided that they should never be interrupted and their friends should always be the ones who answer the phone on someone else's schedule/at someone else's convenience. I realize that this is not their intent necessarily but that is the effect since if their friends had the same call-back only policy they would never talk. The success of a voice-mail+call-back only policy depends on friends who answer the phone.

Oh, and yes, email is better for everyone, but emails get lost in the inbox and move down the list until they're forgotten and sometimes you just have to call to get an answer.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:54 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I grew up with severe social anxiety, which included talking on the phone. While I don't have it anymore, the habit of never answering the phone pretty much stuck. I'll usually call back if they leave a message, but as my Mom like to put it, "If they don't leave a message, it's not important."

I'm also terribly polite on the phone and can never make an excuse to hang up, so if I know a particular person likes to talk on the phone for hours I won't answer until I have the spare time to talk for that long.
posted by biochemist at 10:56 AM on January 9, 2010


I enjoyed the phone when there were party lines. Now, with private line, I can only hear those I know. and they are not worth listening to.
posted by Postroad at 10:58 AM on January 9, 2010


I don't like as many people as I used to.
posted by kathrineg at 11:05 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I hate telephones. They are so rude. Irritating and obnoxious. It's like someone can just invite themselves into your home at any time.

Cell phones don't bother me as much, although I have no use for one. They seem to be more personal than home phones.

Email is a choice for the recipient to open it when they choose and not so much an instant invasion.
posted by VC Drake at 11:33 AM on January 9, 2010


Yes, working phone support for 2 years, followed by general sysadmin stuff for the following six years, created a Pavlovian cringe whenever the phone rang, since it was always about a problem. I stopped calling a lot of long distance friends, and some old friendships definitely suffered for it.

Over the last three years, as I've been away from it, my desire to talk on the phone during leisure time has gradually restored itself. IM is the preferred emergency mode of contact at my current job, and just than tiny asynchronous lag make for a much lower stress level.
posted by bendybendy at 11:40 AM on January 9, 2010


I hate voicemail. It's enough to see in my call history that someone phoned, and I usually phone them right back. I also dislike getting cold calls at work (usually people looking for work or introductions). I don't mind helping people out, but I've found that cold callers often don't know when to stop talking and take too much of my time. You want to meet? Okay, let's set up a time.

Email is so much better.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:41 AM on January 9, 2010


Oh, forgot to add.

I do like phones for business. Seems to be the place they're appropriate.

Just me. Go figure.
posted by VC Drake at 11:42 AM on January 9, 2010


I avoid answering the phone after about midnight and before say...7...Im just convinced its bad news whoever it is.
posted by Neonshock at 11:54 AM on January 9, 2010


I dislike the phone too. I will use it when necessary, but I find it intrusive. I take issue with the idea that anyone, at any time, can, on a whim, make what is effectively an alarm bell ring in my house (or on my person, in the case of a cell phone...which I don't own, unsurprisingly.)

I also guess I prefer emailing people to calling them because it is less intrusive, and people can respond at their leisure. For anything pressing or immediate, yes, I will pick up the phone.

I also dislike returning phone calls because of a perceived obligation to return a phone call, even if the original phone call holds nothing of interest to me. Again, I would prefer it to be like email, where a response doesn't feel like an obligation.

I also accept the fact that people think I'm weird about this. But I'm a solitary sort, I like peace and quiet, and I dislike being disturbed.
posted by Ouisch at 11:57 AM on January 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's weird, I've got a few levels of phone dislike/anxiety.

If I have a headset, phone calls are better than if I don't have a headset.

If I'm sitting at a desk, phone calls are better than if I'm not sitting at a desk.

If the call is about exactly one thing, it's better than if it's just a "catch-up" call.

So calls at work are usually fine. Headset, desk, and a good chance that I'm the one making a decision -- ie, they're trying to sell to me and I can choose the pace and length of the call. Or it's a call about one specific thing and it's obvious when the call ends.

On the other hand, if someone calls me at home then I'm sitting on the couch and I have to hold the phone to my ear and who knows when this phone call is going to end and make it stop please make it stop now.

And for some reason I hate calling for food delivery. I think it's because I do it so infrequently, and usually people calling for food delivery are people who get food delivered reasonably often, so the person at the restaurant expects to talk to people who know how the call is supposed to go and don't give little clues like "now is the time when you order" vs "now is the time when you give me your address" and so on.

But even something simple like calling for a hair appointment, I'll wait until I'm at my desk at work with a headset to do it. I have a Bluetooth headset for my cellphone but I don't use it much because of their high Douchebag Index. I should try using it at home and see if that helps at all. I don't have a dedicated desk space at home, though. I don't know what happens when I have headset-without-desk, I haven't tried that enough!

And as for incoming calls: since I rarely use the phone, the majority of the calls I do get are telemarketers (although this has pretty much dried up ever since I moved from a normal Bell phone line to wholesale VoIP -- I guess it's not clear that my number is a home number in the databases or something). And because of that I screen calls using an answering machine, and the whole thing is just a big feedback loop that makes me like phone calls at home even less.
posted by mendel at 11:59 AM on January 9, 2010


(That said, I do answer the phone when it rings, normally. It just doesn't ring that often because people have figured out that I'm not big on chatting on the phone.)
posted by Ouisch at 12:00 PM on January 9, 2010


I don't like talking on the phone because silence in a phone call is awkward, whereas in real life it's not. Given that I cannot stand people who continue to talk even when they don't have anything to say, this makes talking on the phone nearly unbearable for me; very few people can fill those gaps with anything worth talking about.

Not to mention that if I'm on the phone, I feel like I'm chained to it. I'm an introvert and I cannot just talk and talk and talk for hours like some of my extrovert friends can. For them, talking is an ends in itself and it is purely a means for me. While they are talking, they are doing exactly what they want to be doing, but after the first several minutes I'm usually just suffering and wanting to do something else. Phone calls with these kinds of people have no end in sight because there's no primary goal to accomplish -- we're not arranging a physical meet-up or working through a problem or anything else that can be resolved -- and I start to get physically anxious and upset. This sort of thing is not nearly as bad in person since I don't feel like I'm held hostage, and usually there are other people around to keep things interesting.

I also don't like not being able to see people's reactions to things I say. Hearing someone laugh when you make a joke is nice and all, but not being able to see their face and whatnot is much less rewarding. Comparatively, it makes it feel like a waste of time to talk on the phone; it's like eating Cheetos or something when you could have steak. I'll talk on the phone sporadically to people I barely get to see because then hearing them laugh is actually better than what I normally get, but even then I can only do it every now and then.

Finally, a lot of people ramble on the phone. I would much rather those people text or e-mail me because I can get through to their point much faster, even if they ramble in text, too. It's not as bad when people ramble in real life because it's harder for me to zone out; you pretty much have to look at them while they're talking so it's harder to tune out than a disembodied voice, plus I can read their expression or gestures to get the gist of what they're saying, they can look at me to see recognition of their point, and it goes much more quickly. Also, prompting people to hurry up can sound quite rude on the phone whereas it can be done politely when they can see your body language, expressions, etc.
posted by Nattie at 12:14 PM on January 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Once a week or so I'll get in a phone mood and maybe call someone I haven't spoken with in a while. But in general, the phone stresses me out. It's always my parents, my boss, a client, or someone I feel like I "have" to talk to. All the people I want to talk to I can by text, facebook, or email. And then maybe we'll catch up on the phone every now and then. It's think it's strange everyone has a cellphone but no one really wants to talk, though. I wish I could just use a cellphone for texting and then have a landline or something so I could talk to people when I get home and I don't feel rushed, but that would be a little strange, too.
posted by Rocket26 at 12:41 PM on January 9, 2010


Wow... I feel so much better knowing I'm not only am I not the only one, but there are tons of you out there who hate the phone as well!

My hatred of the phone comes from a lot of things. I hate my voice, and I really hate how it sounds on the phone.

With text-based forms of communication, I have more of an opportunity to think about what I'm saying, to explain myself a little more, and I have a backspace key. Life needs a backspace key. I am the queen of saying stupid things.

Also -- the phone requires immediate reactions. I'm not one of those people who think well on the fly. I prefer more time to think things through and come up with an optimal plan, whether the question is "where do you want to go for dinner?" to "how do I fix this given x,y, and z?"

Finally, I hate trying to get off the phone. I always feel like I'm trying to ditch people. I hate it when I feel like i'm being ditched, and I have no desire to make anyone else feel that way. Fortunately, I haven't had a land line in over a decade, and somehow I always manage to have a dead or dying battery on the cell.
posted by cgg at 12:48 PM on January 9, 2010


If I give you my phone number, I have given you a way to make a device that is usually near me make a loud noise.

I don't trust too many people to have that ability and not abuse it.
posted by madcaptenor at 12:55 PM on January 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


I my personal life, I avoid the phone when people call me - it's an interruption. I really do like to talk (and talk and talk) but it takes a while to warm up, so I'm more likely to place the call when I have the urge to talk. I don't think emails and texts take the place of a good conversation, but they're definitely a better way to get concrete information and planning done, as well as a way to just check in when you don't have the time or energy for a long call, so I think that technology ends up being supplementary to the phone, not a replacement.

At work, I similarly use email for coordinating details, but I sometimes go out of my way to call just to have a chance to chat for a break from the computer. I even like making cold calls! However, when people call me, I get annoyed.

I think I got to like placing when I clerked for a judge. I had enormous phone clout - any lawyer I called, partner or whoever, would jump out of the chair to talk to me.
posted by yarly at 1:06 PM on January 9, 2010


I am not a phone person, but I have no problem answering the phone when it rings. My problem is with making phone calls, rather than receiving them.

I don't like making phone calls. In particular, I don't like making calls to ask questions, or contact people I haven't spoken to before, because I feel awkward and unsure of myself on the phone, and I can never quite shake the sneaking suspicion that the people on the other end of the line are going to privately mock me for whatever my stupid question or request is.

I can make social phone calls to people who are expecting my call -- I talk to my mother for 2 hours or so every weekend. I can make customer service calls to call centers. I can get on conference calls with 10 corporate lawyers and hold my own. What I can't do is make restaurant reservations, or call a new friend and ask them to dinner, or things like that.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:10 PM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Negative enforcement. No one calls me to say "Have I told you how awesome you are? Also, I'm having a great day!"

When the phone rings, 92% of the time it's because someone has a problem that's too urgent/complicated for email. Or that an existing problem is going to be discussed in further detail. Ugh.

(The remaining 8% of the time is mostly "I'm running late/early/lost.")
posted by ErikaB at 2:22 PM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I get a LOT of wrong numbers. Also, when I had a land-line, I was hounded by other peoples' bill collectors ... I guess they didn't pay the phone bill, either, and AT&T gave their number away. To me. Anyone I actually want to hear from will tend to use IM or email.
posted by dagnyscott at 2:28 PM on January 9, 2010


from phone solicitations for $$ from charities etc, to family members who are difficult, often times answering the phone = depressing exercise in trying to say "no" to someone who won't take "no" for an answer from someone like myself who can't help but be polite, or listening to someone complain and complain and complain and refuse advice. not to mention sometimes a guy calling who asked for my number and i didn't know how to say "no" but don't actually want to date him.

yes, the fact that i know who's calling makes a difference - if i don't recognize the number, i prefer to let it go to voicemail and then decide for myself if i want to speak with that person, or if i do recognize and it's family who are probably going to be annoying, i can let it go to voicemail. text messaging also makes a difference, it is easier to make plans or just say a simple thing like "i'm running late be there soon" without calling.

also, it's my observation that many people seem to have lost easy conversational ability over the phone, and it didn't use to be the case! i have more than a few friends who i enjoy talking to, but who are awkward over the phone and it quickly starts to feel like they want to hang up but won't actually say so. and relatives who talk over you and don't listen.
posted by citron at 2:29 PM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you call me when I'm in the middle of a design phase, you're more than likely to make me forget the mindset that could have taken me all day to get into. Plus you probably want something ahead of schedule or different from what we previously agreed - seriously, you're not that special.

Making phone calls is a bind - I mean, what other technology requires you to remember someone's numerical database row ID. Why is there no DNS for people? Outside a call centre, phone/computer integration is exceptionally poor - if I must talk to someone, I want to click, and pick up the handset. I don't want to worry about long distance codes (North America, we need to talk: same area codes that may or may not be long distance? Lame). I don't want to worry about huge long conference call codes. Just get me on the line, so I can be off again as soon as humanly possible.

Ed Hamrick is my hero:
Q: How can a program be written by just one person?

A: The trick is to be very productive, and the one thing that hurts productivity the most is phone calls. Studies have shown that it takes almost 30 minutes to get productive again after a single phone call. I decided 10 years ago that I'd do all customer support and order taking via e-mail and web, and haven't taken any customer phone calls in that time. That's been the single most important reason I've been able to do so much to VueScan in such a short time. The other thing that reduces productivity is meetings. When I had a “real job”, my days were consumed by meetings. I haven't been to a meeting in 10 years, and VueScan has improved rapidly as a result.
posted by scruss at 2:38 PM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm so relieved to know that so many other people are as phone phobic as I am. A ringing phone fills me with anxiety and dread. I rarely answer calls from unknown numbers. A big part of this is to do with being hard of hearing, which makes calls sometimes exceedingly challenging, especially when the caller's voice or accent is unfamiliar. There are times when I simply cannot understand a word being said. (I rely heavily on visual cues to hear people in conversation.) But I do enjoy talking to friends and family, and I don't feel that social calls are an intrusion on my or other people's time, though I'm more likely to set up a call time in advance by email with a friend I don't speak to often.

I also think I suffer from some of the negative conditioning of professional phone use. It seems that at work it is more likely that a call is a source of anxiety, either client demands or problems being communicated by coworkers. It's also a source of interruption, when the open work environment already has so many other sources of interruption. I find it very hard to resume the task I was interrupted from after a call.

Interesting how Jessamyn notes the way she feels put off by other people's multitasking. I've caught myself doing this-- losing attention while multitasking-- and wondered if the other person noticed the lapse. It's usually when I'm wearing earbuds and am therefore hands free.

Lastly, I really agree with the assessment that talking on a mobile phone is physically uncomfortable. I remember being able to cradle an old-fashioned handset against my ear for hours as a teenager. Now my ear starts to ache after 5 minutes of pressing the phone against it. This has a lot to do with poor sound quality on the mobile and needing to press hard to make kind of a seal around the earpiece. I haven't had a landline phone for about 5 years now-- mainly because I use the phone less and less.
posted by amusebuche at 3:12 PM on January 9, 2010


When I'm at home I don't want much to do with the outside world. My wonderful husband sweetly answers the phone and the door so I can keep to my cocoon.
When I'm out of the house I don't mind the phone.
posted by Billegible at 3:43 PM on January 9, 2010


Not a phone person. Basically, a phonecall is a real-time interruption to whatever I am doing, even if this happens to be just sitting around doing nothing in particular; downtime is also valuable time.

In every single instance, I want the call to be done with ASAP so I can get back to my pre-interruption activities. One minute would be the upper limit of how long I want to spend on the phone, preferably less than half that. Thus, I have a very low tolerance of social chitchat & want to get straight onto the purpose of the call: "Yes, I'm fine. Now, this BBQ of yours - what time should I be there & what would you like me to bring? OK, great, see you there" [click]

Except in cases of emergency (which only really come around every few years, if even that often) an asynchronous communication medium like email or text is just as useful, and I can answer it in my own time, when I reach a suitable break between activities.

I've just about always been this way, although maybe in my late teens I used to be able to deal with occasionally chatting away for an hour or so, but that phase didn't last long.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:02 PM on January 9, 2010


There was a long-ish period in my life where, if the phone rang, it was bad news. There was no reason for anyone in my life to be calling me with anything other than immediate pleas for help or complaints. So, I stopped answering the phone without monitoring the call or checking caller ID. I figured the odds of me missing a true "emergency" call was low enough to risk it, and in the case of REAL emergencies, then why are they calling ME? Hang up and call 911, for Pete's sake.

That's become my M.O. to this day. There's nothing that requires my RIGHT THIS INSTANT attention. Trust me, I'll call you back, and when I do, I'll be in a better frame of mind that is ultimately more useful to you.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:13 PM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thank you to everyone who's answered my question, both here, and through memail.

As I shared with someone earlier, it's actually really comforting to hear how common the behavior is, even though the reasons are varied. It means it's a lot more likely that a lot more people are understanding when I don't pick up the phone.

And now I do feel a lot less guilty...thank you all!
posted by anitanita at 4:17 PM on January 9, 2010


Cell Phone = Electronic leash.

Uh. No Thank you!

I keep my landline EXTREMELY private. If it rings, it's for us, and someone we like is calling. Yay!

Cell Phone is for business, acquaintances, and garbage calls. I put my new iPhone on "airplane mode" most of the time, because I value my peace (of mind.)

You're not alone!
posted by jbenben at 4:27 PM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have two explanations for this:

1. I don't process as well auditorily, as I do visually. It's not that I can't, but I'd prefer to read and process, than listen and process. It takes less effort.

2. I'm an executive assistant, and most of my jobs have involved heavy phone use. Recently, most folks have shifted to email, but in the early 00's, it was split more 50/50. So, busman's holiday and all that.

Actually, I have a few more:

3. In professional settings, I like having written verification of what has occurred in case there is a mix-up, question, or issue. CYA and also for future reference if I have a question or want to know how I handled something in the past, essentially.

4. With the advent of cell phones, it's just plain harder to hear what people are saying. You can run into a lot of reception issues, and I find the "what?" and trying to figure out what the heck is being said frustrating, and I feel like when I try to confirm and verify what has been said that it's an imposition or I seem like I don't care or am not paying attention.

5. Lastly, as I have run across more complicated accents and people whose second language is English, I feel like an ass when I can't understand what's being said. Please understand, it's not a "why don't you speak clearer," issue it's a "why am I not better about understanding your accent" issue. I don't like feeling dumb or difficult, and I am woefully monolingual. Written language is more straightforward and less prone to me asking someone to repeat themselves or misunderstanding what has been said.
posted by katemcd at 4:50 PM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Years of working as an assistant cured me of wanting to talk to anyone on the phone. I really need to control my own schedule and workflow to be happy. Instead, every call would be a new and infuriating task that would require me to drop everything and handle it, immediately, all damn day long. Crazy making. Now 99.9% of my communication at work is on email, and I am vastly happier and more productive.

Of the people I would want to call, my daughter is incomprehensible on the phone, (and has lately only called with bad news) everybody local is on twitter/facebook and I've realized cell conversations with long distance friends only emphasize how *not here* they are and make me sad. I'm also one of those people who isolate when I'm depressed and I've really just gotten out of the phone habit.

Plus, I have a crappy handset and spotty service so it's no wonder I prefer text and email to stay in touch.

(But I still irrationally want a Nexus)
posted by Space Kitty at 5:29 PM on January 9, 2010


I second katemcd on the processing. I am terrible auditorially, and especially at processing instructions over the telephone. Having to call technical support makes me homicidal.

"Okay, click on the box on the right hand corner."
"Um, there isn't any box there."
"There's supposed to be."
"Well, there ISN'T one. What am I supposed to do?"
Etc., etc.

But besides that, there's the interruption factor. Odds are that when you're calling, I've just had to do the Flight of the Bumblebee to frantically shut off whatever I've been listening to, dump everything off my lap that I've been doing, rummage through pockets/backpack/through the house to find the phone, and by the time I pick up, I'm really effing pissed at you for scaring me and suddenly stressing me out. I've been told I sound "mean" when I answer the phone, but after doing the Flight of the Bumblebee, I just can't sound perky and happy to talk to you, because right now I HATE YOU FOR CALLING.

And on top of that, (a) I used to be a reporter, followed by (b) two years of an LDR, and (c) my mother is phone-obsessed and calls constantly and wants to have the world's most tedious phone conversations for an hour at a time. She will yak about anything just to have some company, i.e. me going "uh-huh, uh-huh" for ever and ever. Oh yeah, and she leaves tons of voicemails too.

So yeah, hate the phone, only want to use it in the event of emergencies.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:52 PM on January 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Never liked it.

When I read The Telephone Book: Technology, Schizophrenia, Electric Speech it was a big thrill for me; I was elated to finally have somebody explain so clearly why I didn't like the telephone.

I am no longer a comparative lit undergrad, and would probably be considerably less excited by such a jargon-riddled text now, but it's still an interesting read.
posted by kmennie at 5:58 PM on January 9, 2010


I've never been fond of the phone, although through middle school I did enjoy talking to my friends -- as someone upthread pointed out, magic machine that brings gossip! Also, I sort of felt that I was supposed to be talking to friends for hours, even though I didn't and didn't particularly want to.

These days it comes down to two things:
1) mild social anxiety -- I hate cold-calling strangers or being cold-called;
2) more importantly, the language barrier. I live in French Switzerland and though my French is decent enough for everyday, face-to-face use, not being able to see the other person really screws me up somehow. I forget how to say what I want to say, and what I actually say comes out a garbled mess. It's embarrassing and stressful in general, besides which I always worry a bit that someone will call about something important-ish (bank, maintenance, etc) and I'll muddle getting all the information down for my parents. Easier just to let the machine get it for them.
posted by bettafish at 7:22 PM on January 9, 2010


I hate the sound quality of cordless phone conversations. I stopped being a phone person around the time everyone started switching to those. I'm sure part of it was just outgrowing the long-winded teenage stage, but I do feel like it was easier to hear every word when we used corded telephones. I think cell phones sound even worse but maybe I remember corded phones sounding clearer than they did and/or I'm just losing my hearing.

Hey, me too! Isn't quality supposed to get better, not worse?
By the way, never put your phone permanently next to the microwave. That phone is significantly worse (and discolored, ew) than my better one (also cordless), but I never use cell phones. I generally don't like talking on the phone because I don't know how to get people to stop talking... you know what I mean..."Well, I have to go now, I know you were in the middle of your story, whatever, bye."

When compared to text messaging and IM though, it is superior, if only because it really annoys me when people reply to your heartfelt messages with a "lol rite" (I'm 19, you guys, but this is unacceptable) and then walk away to make a sandwich. You know what I mean.

I used to really hate talking on the phone because I felt I was bad at conversational skills, but now I've come to realise that I am probably better than the average bear (remember "lol rite"?), so I've come to prefer it if only for the reason that I hate text messaging so.
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 7:27 PM on January 9, 2010


There's just too much noise in my life - I LOVE silence!
posted by MiffyCLB at 7:28 PM on January 9, 2010


I too, remember talking for hours on the phone as a teenager, but by college, I remember telling people I wasn't really big on phone conversations.
I have been without a phone, mostly by choice, for a number of years now. I use Skype and email (from my laptop) to communicate (never cared for IM, never intend to carry a cellphone). About once a month I have access to a landline for a few days when I'm "home", and sometimes I use it and sometimes I don't. I find that when I am home and the phone rings, on the occasions that I do actually pick up, 9 times out of 10 it is a telemarketer, and 0.9 times out of the remaining 1 time it isn't for me. With those odds, why answer? On very rare occasions (once or twice a year?), I find I need to ask to borrow someone's phone to make a call or fax.
I guess Skype has replaced the phone for me, essentially, and I think it has to do with control. In fact, as the number of "contacts" on my list grows, I find myself increasingly using the option to make myself "invisible". If we have set something up by email ahead of time, I'm happy to talk, even sometimes for hours, but I don't want to be interrupted from what I'm doing in order to shoot the shit.
I think living in a foreign country has made it easier to live without a phone. People don't like to do a lot of long-distance calling, especially now that email is so easy and essentially free.
posted by segatakai at 7:49 PM on January 9, 2010


I have mixed feelings about the phone, depending on the time of day and situation. I hate answering the phone during the day because I am usually working on something, have a bunch of items in my short-term memory relating to what I am working on, and am in the middle of some process or project, and by answering the phone I'll forget what's in my head and leave the work uncompleted. It'll take another 30 minutes to get back into the state I was in before I was interrupted, and I won't be able to concentrate on the call. I hate all phone meetings because they are tremendously inefficient, usually involve one person blathering away while everyone else listens, and are incredibly complicated and annoying to dial into. After work hours, I actually like the phone because it's often friends or family. When meeting people online (e.g. an online dating site) using the phone is vastly preferable to emails because it's instantaneous communication that can actually give you a sense of the other person. At all times, I detest all voicemail because it is too slow by an order of magnitude - the same thing can be said in 1-line email.
posted by lsemel at 9:40 PM on January 9, 2010


I dislike talking on the phone because it lacks the visual cues of face to face conversation which reveal when the other party is understanding, and also when it's my turn to speak or listen. Without this nuance it has all the communication problems of email with none of the non-realtime advantages. With people who wait their turn in conversation it's just a terribly awkward back and forth of "you go", "no, after you" etc.
posted by larkery at 2:00 AM on January 10, 2010


I hate talking on the phone, though I hate talking on the phone slightly less when the call is brief and has a distinct purpose (e.g. "I'm running late, I'll be there in 15 minutes!")...though for most of those calls, I would prefer a text message.

I think this is in part because I am ADHD, and find paying attention to long-winded calls very difficult and irritating. I'd rather have an IM or email conversation because I can respond when I am ready to pay attention to what the person said. In real life and phone conversations, I often have to admit that I stopped paying attention and ask them to repeat themselves. Though in real life conversations, I find it's easier to pay attention than on the phone, probably because eye contact and body language help remind me to pay attention, and also let the person know if I have stopped paying attention.

I also am always busy and thrive on multitasking, so the phone pisses me off -- it's hard to multitask while holding something up to your face, and since I cannot predict when someone is going to decide to call me and talk my ear off, it's usually at a time when I am focused on something else.

So, in short, I hate the phone because (1) I'm impatient, (2) I have trouble paying attention, and (3) I hate being interrupted when I'm doing something else.

That is why I almost always let my phone go to voicemail. :-)
posted by tastybrains at 10:15 AM on January 10, 2010


When I was a teenager, back before mobile and cordless phones, when we had a rotary dial phone screwed to the kitchen wall, I used to be able to talk on the family phone for ages (or until the neighbors wanted to make a call -- it was a party line).

When I grew up, I gave up recreational phoning and restricted calls to quick questions and answers: where, when, what. I never liked long distance calls. If I wanted to say something to someone far away, I wrote a letter. After I got internet access, I switched to email. I haven't bought a stamp in years.

Now at home we have a landline that I use to connect to the internet. When that phone rings, it's not for me, so all I ever say into it, if I pick it up at all, is "One moment. I'll get her." or "She's not here. Can I take a message?" People who want to say something to me know that they need to use email.

I still have never had a mobile phone. I wouldn't even know how to use one if you handed me one. If I ever am forced by circumstances to get one, I suppose I'll use it only when I have to. I despise when people force me to listen to their half of loud, tedious phone conversations in public places. When I'm out for a walk with family, I ask them to turn off their phones so we can focus on ourselves and our surroundings and not on their invisible friends.

Like everyone else, I have to have a phone on my desk at work, but I never call out and I answer it only if I'm at my desk when the call comes. I don't even know the voicemail password. I occasionally check the list of missed calls and email them back with something like "Did you call me?" This switches the conversation to the medium I prefer.

At work, email is a thousand times better than phoning for recording and timestamping and organizing exactly what I want to know. At home, I would just prefer to communicate at my pace, on my schedule, and be able to consider my words before letting them go.
posted by pracowity at 11:18 AM on January 10, 2010


After 100 comments I'd like you to know I've moved from feeling deep, probably unnecessary guilt for not answering my phone, to pangs of pride that I prefer face to face conversations, and the enjoyment of a well crafted letter or email.

I keep reading-rereading your comments and saying, "Yeah! cell phone sound quality is crappy and the phone is too small and it DOES cramp my hand!" or "Exactly, the interruptions are distracting!' or "Hell yeah - people really do call only because they want something or have bad news, and I do feel ineffective and helpless. But who wouldn't?"

Mr. Anitanita was looking at me and I thought I could read the mouthed words 'enabling thread', or 'developing unnecessary arguments to justify never calling your mom', but that could just be the way the light dapples across his face, or perhaps his phone reception is better than mine. :)

Instead, I've decided to feel more accepting of the way I like to communicate in the world, and to embrace the email experience over the next few months with all the friends and family (including my mom) I've been failing to call. Your amazing comments have actually given me something to write about.

Thank you all. You've made my day. What a lovely way to start the year.
posted by anitanita at 11:44 PM on January 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


my phone-phobia has only gotten worse as i've gotten older and email/chat/sms have gotten easier and more socially acceptable. i'm at the point where i screen all my calls; i only pick up for my mom and my girlfriend.

i was never a phone person, but what goes through my head when i'm faced with a phone conversation these days is "do i want to interact with this person on the spot, or have the time to consider my answers, measure my jokes, say what i really mean?" my phone conversations are usually pretty awkward.
posted by prior at 6:09 PM on January 11, 2010


My voicemail message says -truthfully - "I hate voicemail - if you want to get my attention, send me a text at xxx, or an email at xxx. I will not respond to voicemails in any short term basis." This has worked pretty well for me. I don't kid. I can't remember the last time I listened to a voicemail and that is my job! I think my VM is full. Good.
posted by Invoke at 7:23 PM on January 11, 2010


I'm not really a phone person. I generally don't pick it up and don't want to use it. The big exception is when I want to carry on a conversation for longer than a minute or two. Then someone must call me - I REFUSE to text / IM. That is not a real conversation. Please, please, please don't text me with "how's it going?" or some other conversation opener, just call me.
posted by xammerboy at 3:41 PM on January 14, 2010


I screen my home phone calls & but most of the time just let it go to voice mail 'cuz 80% of the time, it's not for me. People familiar with me know to start talking when the recording starts. Those who aren't and are trying to solicit for some charity usually hang up right away. (I know they call because I made the mistake of picking up the phone a couple times, and they started laying the guilt trip)

Ever since I got my landline number, I've been plagued by calls from what seem to be debt collectors who are after a Rosa C. I have never heard of Rosa C. I'm not sure what to do about these callers.

On a tangent, it may be technology affecting us all in how we communicate: The Children of Cyberspace
posted by Seboshin at 10:37 AM on January 15, 2010


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