According to Nielsen, the average number of mobile phone calls we make is dropping every year, after hitting a peak in 2007. And our calls are getting shorter: In 2005 they averaged three minutes in length; now they’re almost half that.
We’re moving, in other words, toward a fascinating cultural transition: the death of the telephone call. This shift is particularly stark among the young. Some college students I know go days without talking into their smartphones at all. I was recently hanging out with a twentysomething entrepreneur who fumbled around for 30 seconds trying to find the option that actually let him dial someone.
This generation doesn’t make phone calls, because everyone is in constant, lightweight contact in so many other ways: texting, chatting, and social-network messaging. And we don’t just have more options than we used to. We have better ones: These new forms of communication have exposed the fact that the voice call is badly designed. It deserves to die.
I submit that there’s another segment of society hanging up the phone: Moms. The nature of parenting is all about time-dependent tasks. The bus leaves at 7:45. Gotta be there. Soccer practice kicks-off at 4:00. Gotta be there. The kids clamor for dinner precisely at 5:47 (don’t ask me why). Gotta make it.
We can’t time-shift parenting. So we sure like to time-shift anything else we can. That includes communication. Another line from Mr. Thompson’s article that grabbed me:
Consider: If I suddenly decide I want to dial you up, I have no way of knowing whether you’re busy, and you have no idea why I’m calling. We have to open Schrödinger’s box every time, having a conversation to figure out whether it’s OK to have a conversation. Plus, voice calls are emotionally high-bandwidth, which is why it’s so weirdly exhausting to be interrupted by one.
There’s almost no time of day to call a mom when you’re NOT interrupting her. So don’t call her (unless you’re solving a problem quickly via the call).