Realistic limitations

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Today's Dumbing of Age features Amber performing a daring physical feat in order to help her friend Walky:

The mouseover title is "let's set realistic limitations for ourselves", and in the last panel, Amber remarks about what she's doing that "It's rough, sure, but it's not impossible, like calling anyone on the phone".

Some of the comments:

(wow, Amber has the same Kryptonite I do!)

I hoped that volunteering at a crisis line, spending time helping people by talking on the phone, would help with my aversion. I got better at answering phone calls, but making them? Still yikes.

I have to make, like, three of them on monday that I was going to do this week. and I seem to have accidentally a depression again. >.< waaaah.

My job is to make and take calls, and I'm getting pretty good at it.
You know the saying "Don't take it home"? Well, I DON'T. Good luck getting me to call someone socially – I don't do that kinky pervert stuff.

Amber: makes bad decisions, can't make phone calls
I feel so seen.

oh god, calling anyone on the phone? *nervous sweat*
keep climbing that building, Amber

I feel called out on that phone thing right now…

Talking on phones is weird and I don't like it either.

That definitely looks easier than calling someone on the phone. So does bomb defusal.

For some more on the generational turn away from voice telephony, see "Social change", 1/15/2015.



57 Comments

  1. Michèle said,

    June 16, 2018 @ 1:58 pm

    I'm Gen X (born in 1969) and I'm not comfortable making phone calls either (or answering them), so I'm skeptical that it's a generational thing. In my case, I'm reasonably certain that it's just anxiety and general social awkwardness.

    [(myl) I've certainly known plenty of older people who have a lot of trouble with making or receiving voice calls, especially with strangers. But I have the very strong impression that the proportion of people who express such feelings is greater now. Perhaps the existence of alternatives like texting makes it easier to adopt/express/accept such attitudes?]

  2. SlideSF said,

    June 16, 2018 @ 2:04 pm

    Although I, too, have a phobia about making phone calls (the holds! the muzak! the iname robotic menus which never give you the option to speak with a human…), my first reaction yo this strip was not phone-aversion, but rather, the near impossibility of making a call on a so-called "smart phone". They are great devices to be sure. But let's be honest. As a mini-computer they excel, but trying it make an actual call on them is an exercise in futility. Trying to find the number, finding the number pad, trying to actuallyhesr a conversation, even hanging up, are all maddeningly diffucult, if not impossible.

  3. Catanea said,

    June 16, 2018 @ 2:11 pm

    We HATE telephony. The wonderfulness of mobile/and-now-smart phones is that YOU NEVER HAVE TO RING ANYONE. A telephone call to me means (PANIC: how do I answer it!) War, or one of my children is in jail or hospital. We do not telephone.
    Why would anyone do so, when What'sApp, or at the very least an sms is possible.
    Also, we have no signal at our remote residence. If anyone DOES ring me (and barring a fluke in the radio waves…sometimes a call gets panic-makingly through) it's usually in the form of a "missed call" notice that comes in while I'm walking the dogs out in the countryside.
    "Modern communications"—not really much. Just different.

  4. Rick Rubenstein said,

    June 16, 2018 @ 3:15 pm

    I'm just shy of 50, and agree both that the phenomenon definitely preceded texting (I suffered from it badly until my mid-twenties) and that it's gotten more prevalent since.

    An interesting bit of full-circle: I felt it was an enormous advance when, upon meeting someone you might be interested in dating, you could exchange email addresses instead of phone numbers. Far less committal!

    Now, of course, anyone under 30 finds the idea of exchanging email addresses ridiculous, and they're back to exchanging phone numbers (for texting of course*). But at least the days of TELEPHONING SOMONE YOU BARELY KNOW TO ASK FOR A DATE are solidly behind us. Kids today don't know how good they have it. ;-) (Although… Call Me Maybe? What's up with that?)

    *Or more likely some trivial webstalking and a Facebook message. Except I guess youngsters don't use that either. Snapbrim or something….

  5. IMarvinTPA said,

    June 16, 2018 @ 4:26 pm

    I got the joke wrong the first time. I thought it was about the difficulty of getting the other end to answer. Probably related though.

    IMarv

  6. Philip Taylor said,

    June 16, 2018 @ 4:59 pm

    British, 71. Making and receiving telephone calls is second nature to me, sending or receiving text messages totally abhorrent (I genuinely have no idea what "What's App" is). I use landline by choice, a Nokia 8310e when driving. My "factual" telephone calls tend to be very terse — "Good morning, can you … please ?", but I can and do make occasional longer social calls. Skype (with video) is also fine.

  7. David L said,

    June 16, 2018 @ 7:27 pm

    I quite often make calls for business reasons, but what's changed over my lifetime is that I almost always email in advance to arrange a good time to call. The days of phone tag are gone, thank heavens. I very rarely call anyone out of the blue anymore.

  8. ohwilleke said,

    June 16, 2018 @ 8:13 pm

    FWIW, I'm 47 and I hate the telephone as a means of communication.

  9. Michele said,

    June 16, 2018 @ 8:49 pm

    Regarding Philip's comment, above: perhaps it *is* a generational thing, but the division is Boomers vs Gen X rather than it being new with Millennials? I don't believe either of my parents had any trouble making or answering phone calls. Mom born 1938, Dad born 1919, so neither of them were actually Boomers. 4 of my siblings are Boomers, though, and they all seem ok on the phone. Maybe it's just me! ;-).

    Myl wrote: "But I have the very strong impression that the proportion of people who express such feelings is greater now. Perhaps the existence of alternatives like texting makes it easier to adopt/express/accept such attitudes?"

    That's certainly possible!

  10. mdhughes said,

    June 16, 2018 @ 10:40 pm

    Gen-X. Having a bell ring in my presence, demanding my attention, is an abhorrent intrusion, the rudest possible thing anyone could do, and I think anyone who does it is a jerk.

    So why would I do that to others? I don't call people unless we have a scheduled "meeting", and Skype or Facetime is better in every way.

    Until mobiles, I had an answering machine and a phone I could disable the ringer on; now I just use a silent ringtone and everything goes to voicemail unless you're one of 3 specific people. I highly recommend it.

  11. John Roth said,

    June 16, 2018 @ 10:49 pm

    I've been known to quote Mark Twain's (possibly apocryphal) comment to the effect that he wished everyone a good life and afterlife, with the sole exception of the inventor of the telephone.

  12. Michele Sharik said,

    June 16, 2018 @ 10:53 pm

    LOL – I wonder how many of the things attributed to Mark Twain he actually said. :-)

  13. Doris Bass said,

    June 17, 2018 @ 12:59 am

    Funny, everyone seems to read "like calling anyone on a phone" as referring to "impossible" rather than "not impossible" or "rough" (although the latter interpretation probably requires a semicolon in place of the final comma).

  14. David Marjanović said,

    June 17, 2018 @ 4:49 am

    But I have the very strong impression that the proportion of people who express such feelings is greater now. Perhaps the existence of alternatives like texting makes it easier to adopt/express/accept such attitudes?

    Definitely. What's generational is that Kids Today don't pressure each other as hard to conform anymore. It's not just telephone anxiety either; for instance, there are people running around not drinking alcohol – simply because we don't like the smell & taste, not for "officially excused" reasons like religious ones – and getting away with it. Likewise with gender identities and sexual orientations.

    I don't want to interrupt people. To call people interrupts them and tells them "drop everything you're doing right now, I'm more important". I have serious trouble working up that amount of chutzpah.

    (And that's before we even get to the general difficulties of talking to a stranger in Western culture, which takes 70% of everything as an insult by default.)

  15. Philip Taylor said,

    June 17, 2018 @ 5:13 am

    Reading David Marjanović's post, it is almost as if he and I occupy different universes. I cannot think of anyone who would regard a telephone call from me (or from any of their friends) as "an interruption"; incoming telephone calls are a normal part of daily life, both in the office and at home. If I telephone someone and they are busy and cannot spare the time to talk, they will tell me so (most politely, after an initial interchange of greetings, but my wife can be more rather more forceful and abrupt !) and my wife also frequently suggests that I telephone someone before visiting them, whereas to me a casual and unannounced visit to a close friend is no more intrusive than a casual and unscheduled telephone call (and hence I never do telephone such people in advance).

  16. David Marjanović said,

    June 17, 2018 @ 6:35 am

    Amber: makes bad decisions, can't make phone calls
    I feel so seen.

    Reply:

    "This is why Batman has a Bat-Signal instead of just giving the Commissioner a secret phone number. The conversations were too awkward."

    Reading David Marjanović's post, it is almost as if he and I occupy different universes.

    Not the first time, and not the last. :-) I'm sure we'll continue to surprise each other for a long time!

  17. David Marjanović said,

    June 17, 2018 @ 6:46 am

    Further:

    "Am I the only one that hates texting rather than calling someone? Texting is so impersonal and it can forever for someone to reply, making what should be a 1 minute phone call into several hours of waiting. Plus Texting just feel so . . .impersonal? Not quite sure what the right word I want to use there is."

    Response:

    "Exactly! It's impersonal! I don't have to think about the human I'm interacting with on the other end as much. It's much less anxiety-inducing. Also, you can reword and rewrite a text several times until you have the right phrasing. Hard to do that in a live conversation. And with my propensity for saying exactly the wrong thing, that is a life-saver."

    Also:

    "Phone calls freak me out because I can hear the persons voice but not see their face. Since I'm likely autistic, I think it's because I find it hard to know when to talk and in person I get more information from the person's face etc. In text you always know when it's your turn. Also you can't really interrupt anyone by text so it's much easier for me at least "

    and:

    "I think the reasons you describe are why so many of us prefer texting over talking, actually. Many introverts do not want that sort of personal exposure – they prefer distant and impersonal, it feels safer."

    Response:

    "yup. and the stress of being put on the spot like that means I'm more likely to forget something I wanted to say. and there's no record of the conversation unless I try to write and talk at the same time (which adds even more stress and tends to make me sound like a hal-bot). I tend to repeat appointment details out loud now until I can find a pen and paper or something."

  18. m said,

    June 17, 2018 @ 6:52 am

    A friend told me that she recently set up a playhouse for her 2-year-old granddaughter, including a toy phone. She stood outside and put her hand to her head and said "This is grandma calling." No answer. She said it louder. Then she looked inside — the two year old was tapping on the play phone with two fingers.

  19. Trogluddite said,

    June 17, 2018 @ 10:15 am

    Re: "Since I'm likely autistic…" from David Marjanović's post.

    Yes, indeed. I am a formally diagnosed autistic, and I spend a great deal of time on online autistic communities. Difficulty with telephone calls is a very common conversation point, and many autistic people will describe how they find text or e-mail vastly more comfortable than voice calls, or indeed, speaking face to face. The common assumption that it is merely a social phobia misses the fact that there are very real and innate differences in cognition for an autistic person. We can't be "trained" by exposure therapy, as a truly phobic person might be, to overcome all of these differences.

    Missing cues from prosody is only part of the problem. Very often, autistic people require longer to process sensory input in order to make sense of it. Combined with attentional and executive functioning impairments, this can make it very difficult to formulate a response at the same time that we are listening – an inability to multi-task to a much more extreme degree than most non-autistic people. To many autistic people, the person on the other end of the telephone often seems incredibly impatient. The indecision and rumination that we can require in order to formulate a meaningful response often results in further pressure to answer quickly ("get on with it, I'm paying for this call!"), and the added pressure makes marshalling our cognitive functions more difficult still.

    Likewise receiving an unexpected call. An autistic person can often take quite some time to shift their mind from one kind of task to another. For example, if I am working on some computer code, I am often hyper-focused to the point of having almost no awareness of my surroundings, or even my own bodily functions. To suddenly have to switch into a mode of thinking suitable for conversation seems akin to the old days of having to completely reboot a computer system in order to switch applications.

    One could say that, for many autistic people, text communication "levels the playing field". There may still be pragmatic aspects of communication that we struggle with even then, but our conversation partner is unable to use prosody and non-verbal communication when writing and time is far less critical, thus closing the disparity in communication abilities.

  20. Ran Ari-Gur said,

    June 17, 2018 @ 1:11 pm

    @Doris Bass: If Amber had meant that making a phone call was not impossible, I think she would have said "like calling someone" instead of "like calling anyone".

  21. Andrej Bjelaković said,

    June 17, 2018 @ 2:27 pm

    A highly relevant joke from Community:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTva8qFP2P0

  22. Michèle Sharik said,

    June 17, 2018 @ 3:17 pm

    Philip wrote:
    Reading David Marjanović's post, it is almost as if he and I occupy different universes.

    Whereas I felt like someone finally understood me! Lol!

  23. Andrew Usher said,

    June 17, 2018 @ 4:16 pm

    I, also, did not 'get the joke' in the apparently intended way. I realise the difficulty is that that sense of the word 'impossible' is simply not in my vocabulary, and therefore I didn't consider it. To me saying that calling someone is 'impossible' can only mean (besides the obvious literal sense) that they never seem to answer, so I can't actually speak to him which is my purpose in calling.

    I suppose, though, as an example of the routine torturing of the language by the female sex, it's not, um, impossible. Now I may digress, as others have done here –

    I myself don't have difficulty of that kind making phone calls, and don't see why anyone should. I don't know what 'autistic' even means anymore, really, but it's not an excuse for indecision. Sure, it means difficulty in socialising, but difficulty talking to someone when you have a specific purpose (not just social interaction) can and should be overcome.

    I most prefer e-mail for communication (as you can probably guess) when it can be arranged, and the phone is often inconvenient, but when you want to talk to someone and you've got a number, for God's sake try it!

    Philip Taylor:
    I guess people can differ on this but to me you just _don't_ make 'casual and unannounced visits'. In my universe, part of being an adult is realising that you don't just drop in on people like that; always give them an opportunity to say no without being rude. Perhaps some people have grown up in environments where it was otherwise, though.

    k_over_hbarc at yahoo.com

  24. NSBK said,

    June 17, 2018 @ 6:18 pm

    Just my $0.02, but I seem to be living in the same universe as David Marjanović. I hate both making and recieving (unscheduled) telephone calls. I greatly prefer email, where I have an implicitly written / signed / timestamped record of a conversation.

    I also prefer meeting someone face-to-face (in person or virtually) as a second option to email, with telephone being my very last option. With email I get an detailed record; with face-to-face conversations I get body language cues; with telephone conversations I get neither of the above.

    I would consider myself an introvert (i.e., social interaction takes energy and solitude replenishes it), but not necessarily socially anxious (social interaction doesn't cause me stress), and I am fairly confident that I am not on the autism spectrum (though I have never been tested).

    But I would think that any of these three categories (introverted / socially anxious / autistic), which may overlap or not in 2*2*2 = 8 combinations, would make someone prefer a form of communication that does not rely on the pragmatics of conversational timing and body language while also allowing for greater review of one's responses and the existing conversation — that is to say, written rather than verbal communication.

    These people, before the invention of text messaging, may be the kind that hands a note to a peer, even outside of class. I did this myself in high school.

    As an addition, I am a software engineer who is extremely bad at multitasking. Trogluddite describes this in his post above from the point of view of someone who is diagnosed as autistic. When I need to perform a "context switch", which is to say moving from one task to another, I take a relatively long time to get up to speed on the new task. An interruption that requires immediate attention (like a phone call, or someone stopping by my desk outside of a scheduled meeting) is a context switch initiated by another person. How rude! After a phone call that is anything other than a wrong number, I need to spend *literally* five to ten minutes getting back into the mental state for the task I was doing before.

    On the contrary, an email or text message notification is something I can ignore till I have reached a natural stopping point with my current thought process, which may be several hours away at any given time.

    Lastly, since no one has answered Philip Taylor's implicit question about what "WhatsApp" is: it is a free to use application that allows text messages, audio phone calls, and audio-visual phone calls to be sent between users of the application so long as they have an internet connection (no phone plan required). Apps like this are extremely common outside of North America. I myself use WhatsApp to call and text family outside of North America.

  25. Bathrobe said,

    June 18, 2018 @ 12:01 am

    The 1980s minor hit Telephone Operator (Pete Shelley) seems like an aeon away:

    Telephone operator
    Why can't I see you later
    Telephone operator
    Why can't I see you later
    Tell me is it wine
    That makes things so fine
    Or is it 'cause you're mine

    Telephone operator
    You're my aural stimulator
    Telephone operator
    Ne see'est pas la raison d'etre
    Tell me is it love
    That I feel because
    You're all I'm thinking of

    Telephone operator
    Phone you up an hour later
    Telephone operator
    Phoned you up an hour later
    Tell me is it love
    That I'm in because
    I'm only thinking of you

  26. Martha said,

    June 18, 2018 @ 12:30 am

    I'm not trying to say that not wanting to disrupt other people isn't a reason that people don't like to make phone calls, but it doesn't really seem to me like it's the main reason. At least, I know people who don't like making *any* sort of phone call, even, for example, to make an appointment, when you can be sure that you're not disrupting anyone because you're calling a receptionist whose job it is to answer the phone. People just find the whole thing awkward.

  27. Michele Sharik said,

    June 18, 2018 @ 12:42 am

    Andrew Usher wrote:
    > as an example of the routine torturing of the language by the female sex,

    I'm still trying to figure out what you mean by that….

  28. Bathrobe said,

    June 18, 2018 @ 1:07 am

    I guess people can differ on this but to me you just _don't_ make 'casual and unannounced visits'.

    You would HATE living in Mongolia.

  29. Philip Taylor said,

    June 18, 2018 @ 4:56 am

    Andrew Usher: "I don't know what 'autistic' even means anymore, really, but it's not an excuse for indecision". Autism is not an excuse for anything; it is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others. As such it may well be a reason for indecision but it is most certainly not an excuse. In the U.K., it affects approximately 1% of the population.

  30. Philip Taylor said,

    June 18, 2018 @ 5:02 am

    I am beginning to wonder whether one partial reason for this phenomenon (the dislike, or fear, or whatever, of making or receiving telephone calls), and the possibly related phenomenon of not welcoming casual and unannounced visits, might be related to the re-definition of "friend" by Facebook et al. For me, a telephone call from a friend, or a casual and unannounced visit by one, is a source of considerable pleasure, but then all of my friends are real friends, not simply persons who have "friended" me via social media. Could this, I wonder, be a part of the explanation ?

  31. Andreas Johansson said,

    June 18, 2018 @ 5:26 am

    I'm 36 and would have said I'm not fond of speaking on the phone, though clearly I am compared to many here. Texting being painfully slow, I've often resorted to simply calling someone when a text conversation runs longer than a couple of messages in each direction.

    I'm a bit surprised that apparently many people feel that a text is much less of an intrusion than a call; if I get a text, I feel compelled to check it out immediately in case it's something urgent. (So, to be consistent, if you feel you can't call me because that might be a rude interruption, you shouldn't be comfortable with texting me either. Write me an email I guess.)

    Something I dislike is video calls. For me it falls into some interactional analogue of the uncanny valley, between the naturalness of a face-to-face conversation and the clear artificiality of a regular phone call. I think what I'd need to appreciate it is some sort of VR set-up so that when the other person looks into the eyes of my representation they seem to me to look into my eyes.

  32. Andreas Johansson said,

    June 18, 2018 @ 5:35 am

    @Philip Taylor:

    I doubt that Facebook's appropriation of "friend" has anything to do with it – as near as I can tell, the word has simply acquired an additional definition, and the FB sense doesn't affect the "real" sense any more than the Quaker one does.

    FWIW, I would very much perceive an unannounced visit by a close real-life friend as a breach of social protocol. It's the sort of thing I was taught one simply does not do, back in the days before anyone had thought up social media. Connecting back to the original topic, I'd very likely ask them why they didn't call first.

  33. Shawn Noble Maeder said,

    June 18, 2018 @ 5:40 am

    Even back in 1996 when I was doing telephone recordings for the Atlas of North American English, I had to psych myself up for each call. Once I had someone on the line, conversation flowed, but each new call was like a trip to the dentist.

  34. MattF said,

    June 18, 2018 @ 6:18 am

    And robocalls. I don't mind getting calls from people I know– but, especially if you're retired, robocalls are a plague. Nowadays, I nearly never answer the phone when it rings.

  35. David Marjanović said,

    June 18, 2018 @ 6:32 am

    More later, I have to run, just:

    I know people who don't like making *any* sort of phone call, even, for example, to make an appointment, when you can be sure that you're not disrupting anyone because you're calling a receptionist whose job it is to answer the phone.

    Even so, receptionists probably don't literally sit there twiddling their thumbs and waiting for phone calls to free them from their boredom. Often they're actually secretaries whose other work is interrupted by phone calls.

    FWIW, I would very much perceive an unannounced visit by a close real-life friend as a breach of social protocol. It's the sort of thing I was taught one simply does not do, back in the days before anyone had thought up social media. Connecting back to the original topic, I'd very likely ask them why they didn't call first.

    There are cultural differences there even within "the West". In some places, visiting someone makes them a host with various duties of hospitality, which would have required some preparation. This way, you can at the same time be happy that a genuine friend visits you, and angry at them because they seemingly expect you to have done things they didn't even have time for. However, in some of those places, the problem is solved in that everyone is always prepared for visitors and can always host people as they culturally expect.

  36. David Marjanović said,

    June 18, 2018 @ 6:32 am

    Oh, robocalls aren't even legal over here.

  37. the Viking Diva said,

    June 18, 2018 @ 9:55 am

    Sociologist Sherry Turkle has studied this phenomenon and documents how technology is eroding relationships in her book "Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age." Some of this is what David Marjanović mentions: the ability to edit a text or an email message or Facebook post to perfection before sending it means that people are getting worse at managing the real-time dynamics of face-to-face conversation. She also documents how people are worse at anticipating the emotional impact of what they say – basically we are meaner in texts. Middle school teachers document that their students get into spats on the playground over things that they used to see much younger children argued about – the kids are older but they have not developed the skill of settling a dispute.

  38. Vulcan With a Mullet said,

    June 18, 2018 @ 10:00 am

    Gen X here (born 1969) as well, and I too hate making phone calls. Much prefer texting. But I really prefer face-to-face… I find it better than either other alternative of course. Something about phone conversations, even with my closest friends, makes me feel uncomfortable for some reason :) (not autistic but I do have ADHD, which might contribute to my problem with listening, although I have no problem when I have a face in front of me)

  39. Michele Sharik said,

    June 18, 2018 @ 1:49 pm

    Philip Taylor wrote:
    "but then all of my friends are real friends, not simply persons who have "friended" me via social media."

    I have been active on online communities since the 1990s and I have to say that many of the friends I have met online have been more "real" than people I know "in real life" — supporting me in desperate situations and having my back when I needed it the most. (The most recent example being this past March when my mother suddenly passed away – my online friends helped me financially, logistically, and spiritually and I am more grateful for them than I can come close to expressing. They are my TRUE friends.)

    Just because we have never in person does not mean they are not "real" friends.

  40. whistle said,

    June 18, 2018 @ 3:14 pm

    "What's generational is that Kids Today don't pressure each other as hard to conform anymore." I don't think I buy that as a generalization. The pressure today is to text and not to call. Same pressure, different target.

    Texting and phoning both serve different purposes and are useful in different situations. If you adamantly refuse to do one of these, there are certain opportunities in life that will not be available to you.

    I have a friend for whom texting is very difficult due to dyslexia. The act of reading and responding to texts is likely to trigger a migraine. It is known that she will respond to a text with "y", "n", or "k" when applicable and then everything else needs to be done by phone.

    My husband regularly texts back and forth with his sister where she 1) does not directly respond to any questions asked of her and 2) sends ambiguous messages that are difficult to interpret. He can spend an hour going back and forth with her and still not have a clear understanding of what time Thanksgiving dinner is. A 5 minute phone call would clear everything up!

    On the other hand, it's great when I can show up at a noisy crowded venue and text the person joining me to indicate exactly where they can find me!

    I just can't see any reason to see texting as a complete replacement for phone calls, and I'm glad both exist.

  41. Viseguy said,

    June 18, 2018 @ 6:24 pm

    I reckon that the phone call's heyday lasted 70 years (1930-2000), as long as that of the bowler/derby hat (1860-1930). That's longer than vinyl records, 8-track/cassette tapes, CDs, and lots else; a good, long run. Tempora mutandur, et nos mutamur in illis. (Me, I'm more likely to be seen in public wearing a bowler — for me it's THE hat — than talking on the phone. But then again, every time I use an ATM I thank my lucky stars that I'm not interacting with an ill-tempered human being in a stultifying job they didn't want, just sorely needed.)

    I'm 67, and I think WhatsApp is the bee's knees. The user interface is admirably simple: a text-input field and 4 buttons: voice message, photo/video, file attachment, and emojis. No ads or other extraneous matter. My (real) friends give me, inter alia, self-narrated walking tours of the exotic (or not-so) places they're visiting, tours that, happily, no one else can see. And the price is right. :)

  42. Kaleberg said,

    June 18, 2018 @ 7:33 pm

    The problem with texting is that text messages often take 48 hours to arrive. It's ridiculous, but true, even in big cities. I'll summon a car using an app, and two days after the ride get notified that my driver has arrived. I usually wind up calling or using email. You can send a postal letter in less time.

    The problem with calling is that cell phones have appalling sound quality. I knew people who worked in telephony at MIT, so I learned how the sausage is made. Did you ever wonder how you can hear a violin play over a 4KHz land line? I hate to think of the filtering they do given how miserly they are with bandwidth. It's bad enough having to listen to it.

    On the other hand, I like calling faceless corporations when I want to get them to do something for me. The initial human contact takes a bit of patience, but once made it's easy to size up the listener and cajole them in form. I find it harder to do this in person. A phone call creates all sorts of opportunities to flatter, to amuse, to commiserate and form a bond. It helps to remember that corporations are pretty helpless without their constituent human beings.

    What almost everyone seems to dread is cold calling. It's the toughest move in sales. I have a niece in the business, and she was trained to make cold calls and turn them into prospects. We went over some of her notes together when she called me to practice. Cold calling never bothered her, except that it was doing work. Apparently, she has gotten pretty good at it if her employers can be believed.

    Personally, I think the modern dread of the telephone is because kids aren't taught how to make telephone calls. They aren't taught how to write letters or emails. They aren't taught any grammar which becomes obvious if you listen to them. Perhaps we should bring in domesticated wolves, so at least our children will be raised by wolves.

  43. Andreas Johansson said,

    June 18, 2018 @ 11:50 pm

    Viseguy wrote:
    I think WhatsApp is the bee's knees. The user interface is admirably simple: a text-input field and 4 buttons: voice message, photo/video, file attachment, and emojis.

    I confess I can't stand the emoji input system. Emoji are supposed to be input by typing text strings, dammit!

  44. Rhona Fenwick said,

    June 19, 2018 @ 4:36 am

    "They aren't taught any grammar which becomes obvious if you listen to them."

    Listen to them as they talk to who, I wonder? Just about the only thing that never changes about language, it seems, is the tendency of both younger and older people to use it to complain about each other. The language one uses to talk to one's parents is very different from the language one uses to talk to one's friends, and both are different again from the language one uses to talk to one's boss. Register is a thing, slang exists, both are used to both include and exclude others from conversations, and none of that means that any of it is bereft of "grammar".

    In any case, let me return to your actual point. You claim that the dread of the telephone is because "kids" weren't taught to use the phone. Professional settings aside, were you ever "taught" how to telephone your parents or friends? Because much as I dearly love my family and friends, I (34 and Australian, for the record) still get a good solid whack of nerves at the idea of either receiving a call from, or making a call to, almost all of them. And this is after growing up through a childhood and adolescence where the bulk of all communication was done by voice telephony: texting and mobile phones were more or less absent until my early adulthood, letters and cards exclusively for when we were on holiday or passing notes in school. I asked my first partner out via a phone call and virtually all non-face-to-face contact with all my friends was conducted in that manner as well. Conversely, who do you suppose "taught" these kids how to communicate via text? By your logic, should they not dread texting if they'd never been taught it?

    No – there are other issues going on here, and for my part the "kids today" perspective explains little to none of it.

  45. Mark F. said,

    June 19, 2018 @ 9:45 am

    Anyone born in the early 70's or before will have gone through high school at a time when land lines were essentially the only option. You had to accept the lack of privacy and the interruptive nature if you wanted to get in touch with friends after school. People who came of age in this century have never had to put up with the inescapability of their parents hearing their half of their conversations with friends. It is no wonder that they don't have the habit of talking on the phone, and calling someone seems like an unnatural act.

    Notwithstanding the comments from people in their 40s who hate talking on the phone, I would be astonished if that opinion turned out not to be more broadly and strongly held among the young. But of course, the technological changes affect us all, so it's not surprising that people of all ages would be more resistant to talking on the phone now than they were in the 80's, since there are alternatives now that didn't exist then.

    For me, it was quite striking how different my son's use of the phone in high school was compared to mine three plus decades ago.

  46. GeorgeW said,

    June 19, 2018 @ 12:29 pm

    In my volunteer work, Guardian ad Litem, I deal with all generations and widely varying social groups.

    In communicating, I use every means of modern communication except letter writing. Sometimes, it is email (which is useful in documenting the communication and information requested). SMS is useful for scheduling meetings, getting a specific piece of information and the like. Phone calls are helpful when a conversation is needed. Phone calls necessitate some politeness banter not required by text messaging, or even most emails.

    I find that emails and text messages seem to make it easier for the other party to avoid answering questions, particularly if there are several questions to be answered. in a phone call it is more comfortable to repeat an unanswered question.

  47. Viseguy said,

    June 19, 2018 @ 11:08 pm

    @"Andreas Johansson": "I confess I can't stand the emoji input system. Emoji are supposed to be input by typing text strings, dammit!"

    Yes, but aren't those text strings called emoticons? While emojis are graphical, not text, representations? (And did I go wrong by adding an "s" to pluralize emoji?)

    By the way, if you want to enter plain text, there are 1600+ emoji(s) that correspond to Unicode codes. You can memorize them in your spare time. U+1F600 ;)

  48. ryan said,

    June 19, 2018 @ 11:18 pm

    I work with a bunch of teenagers (part-time staff at my business), and they call me all the time. They text too, but I don't get the sense that they avoid calling. There's a different hierarchy of communication today.

  49. David Marjanović said,

    June 20, 2018 @ 4:35 am

    This way, you can at the same time be happy that a genuine friend visits you, and angry at them because they seemingly expect you to have done things they didn't even have time for.

    ..I meant "things you, the host, didn't even have time for."

    On the other hand, I like calling faceless corporations when I want to get them to do something for me. The initial human contact takes a bit of patience, but once made it's easy to size up the listener and cajole them in form. I find it harder to do this in person. A phone call creates all sorts of opportunities to flatter, to amuse, to commiserate and form a bond.

    Cultural differences within the West again – over here, this would be impossible on the phone, because one does not simply befriend a random stranger who's talking to you in a professional capacity.

    Personally, I think the modern dread of the telephone is because kids aren't taught how to make telephone calls. They aren't taught how to write letters or emails. They aren't taught any grammar which becomes obvious if you listen to them. Perhaps we should bring in domesticated wolves, so at least our children will be raised by wolves.

    Come on. I'm almost 36, I'm older than texting, I feel the same about phone calls no matter whether they're supposed to be in Standard English, Standard German, Standard French or my unwritten German dialect that has never been formally taught to anybody.

  50. David Marjanović said,

    June 20, 2018 @ 4:49 am

    Andrew Usher's comment deserves a separate reply.

    I, also, did not 'get the joke' in the apparently intended way. I realise the difficulty is that that sense of the word 'impossible' is simply not in my vocabulary, and therefore I didn't consider it. To me saying that calling someone is 'impossible' can only mean (besides the obvious literal sense) that they never seem to answer, so I can't actually speak to him which is my purpose in calling.

    "Impossible" here means that the speaker is unable to do the "impossible" thing. Of course that sense is in your vocabulary. Instead, the fact that the abilities of different people are different seems to be beyond your imagination.

    I suppose, though, as an example of the routine torturing of the language by the female sex, it's not, um, impossible.

    Here you're engaging in the same fallacy that underlies the recency illusion and the frequency illusion.

    I myself don't have difficulty of that kind making phone calls, and don't see why anyone should.

    See, you're asking the wrong question. Perhaps nobody should have these difficulties, but some people do. This isn't an "ought", it's an "is".

    I don't know what 'autistic' even means anymore, really, but it's not an excuse for indecision. Sure, it means difficulty in socialising, but difficulty talking to someone when you have a specific purpose (not just social interaction) can and should be overcome.

    "Autistic" is indeed hard to define, hence the modern concept of the "autism spectrum". I'm actually pretty sure this spectrum is actually several different spectra that overlap in some symptoms but probably have quite different causes. For example, unusually many people on the autism spectrum have either unusually good or unusually bad coordination of body movements, unusually many are either unusually insensitive to pain or unusually sensitive… and, hey, schizophrenia recently turned out to be several different things, too.

    But in any case, we're talking about ways the brain is wired. Those are pretty much impossible to change, regardless of whether they "should be overcome". You'll have to live with the facts that not everyone thinks in the exact same ways you do, that you can't do anything about that, and – while we're waiting for further advances in research – that you don't understand why this is how it is.

  51. Philip Taylor said,

    June 20, 2018 @ 7:41 am

    David M : "Cultural differences within the West again – over here, this would be impossible on the phone, because one does not simply befriend a random stranger who's talking to you in a professional capacity".

    Where is "over here", David ? In the U.K., I quite frequently "befriend a random stranger who's talking to [me] in a professional capacity", because I am always aware that the person to whom I am speaking is a fellow human being, not just an agent of an anonymous organisation.

  52. Martha said,

    June 20, 2018 @ 10:26 am

    David Marjanović – you're right about receptionists. I chose the wrong word; when I was typing, I was actually envisioning a call center, not a receptionist. But regardless, either way, you're not bothering someone who has just settled down for dinner or a nice relaxing evening of whatever.

    I kind of don't blame people for feeling awkward/anxious about phone calls (to businesses, versus friends). Often when I answer the phone for either of my (very different) jobs, it takes people a while to get to the point (or at least the information that allows me to assist them), or else they don't provide enough information. People are probably aware they might do this (I'm not sure how much background information I need to give sometimes), and they don't want to "do it wrong." Although I suppose this is another form of "bothering" someone.

    I also wonder if part of the reason people don't like making phone calls is the risk of having to leave a message. I remember a few years ago, some friends of mine were talking about how if they get someone's machine/voicemail, they prefer to hang up and plan their message and then call back.

  53. Trogluddite said,

    June 20, 2018 @ 3:35 pm

    I would just like to thank the contributors who posted to correct Andrew Usher's misconceptions about autism. When I posted my earlier comment, I thought that the linguists here might be interested to hear about the current topic from the point of view of a person with atypical language development, perception and cognition. My desire to improve my communication skills is one of the reasons why I am so fascinated by linguistics and appreciate the content of Language Log.

    I didn't expect to have to read ill informed and condescending remarks about my neurological condition, and I fail to see how they are relevant to either this topic or LL in general. I am glad of the support of my fellow Language Loggers, and also glad that you saved me from embarrassing myself by posting something excessively vitriolic in the heat of the moment!

    @Andrew Usher
    It is true that autistic people often have unusually great difficulty imagining themselves in another person's shoes. It is also true that it is no easier for a non-autistic person to imagine themselves in ours. You at least acknowledge that autistic people have difficulty with social interactions. The factors which I described in my earlier post are examples of the cognitive and perceptual origins of these difficulties.

    On a more linguistic note; "I'm not even sure what 'X' means…" is not exactly the best rhetorical device to be using when venturing to make assertions and value judgements about 'X'. I bear no grudge; misconceptions about autism are rife, and I've had nearly half a century to get used to this kind of thing. Best wishes.

  54. Andrew Usher said,

    June 20, 2018 @ 6:57 pm

    Seeing the last two messages (I mean, from David and Trogluddite), it seems I ought to reply, though I may not be sparing the time the matter really deserves. My first and main point concerned the usage of the word 'impossible' and I'm glad someone addressed me on that. After a second thought, I see that it's not so clear; it is accepted to say it's impossible for me to … to indicate something simply inconsistent with one's nature or character, but does that really include phone calls? It's a continuous spectrum, I guess, and that use definitely falls on the wrong side of acceptability for me – it immediately struck me as a blunder. Of course, if it was meant purely as a joke (by the character) that would probably be going too far as, of course, the rules of discourse are not very rigid when speaking in jest. So that's something we can just disagree on, I think.

    For the autism stuff, I realised that my remarks could be taken that way, but thought that would be rather unkind given my intent, which should be clear. I know it's unfashionable nowadays to say that anyone with a disability or 'difference' should be other than a perpetual victim of it, so I may be committing a kind of sacrilege – but as far as I meant anything to those people it was to give helpful advice.

    You assume that I am 'non-autistic', if my posts seem like that, I consider it a compliment as I don't really try to hide the fact that I am 'on the spectrum', although I don't bring it up either. I was speaking from my own experiences – I have myself struggled with those things, and perhaps still do to an extent, but I am not going to just give up. While I know that it is impossible for me to socialise like a 'normal person', it is not to communicate with someone that I need to communicate with, and I'd be doing myself a disservice by concluding that. So I want to tell others the same, or perhaps I could have used the vernacular form: "Get your shit together!".

    k_over_hbarc at yahoo.com

  55. Trogluddite said,

    June 20, 2018 @ 7:48 pm

    @Andrew Usher
    Then my apologies for my assumptions. Myself, no I haven't 'given up', I was merely explaining what the difficulties I have are for the reasons stated previously. To me, making them explicit isn't about being a victim; it's about trying to find compromises whereby all parties maximise the effectiveness of their communication. Each autistic person has their own portfolio of different traits; the word salad that comes out of my mouth when I'm overstimulated is no more useful to the listener than it is to me, so this has been an effective strategy for me. You have your own solutions. Vive la difference.

  56. Andreas Johansson said,

    June 21, 2018 @ 4:37 am

    @Viseguy:

    I was of the impression that "emoji" and "emoticon" were synonymous and both covered both the graphical and textual versions. Anyway, my point was, I want to type colon plus closing parenthesis and have the software turn that into a smiley face, rather than finding the face in a special emoji menu. When I, as in WhatsApp, can't do it my preferred way, I generally just leave them as text strings rather than try and negotiate the emoji interface.

  57. Philip Taylor said,

    June 22, 2018 @ 3:50 am

    (From Wikipædia): "Originally meaning pictograph, the word emoji comes from Japanese e (絵, "picture") + moji (文字, "character"). The resemblance to the English words emotion and emoticon is purely coincidental".

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