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How often do you pick up the phone and actually call someone? How often do you take some time out of your day and listen to another human voice rather than shooting off a quick Whatsapp while juggling a hundred other things?
Maybe you call people all the time, in which case we commend you, but there are many more out there who find the idea of communicating via text far more appealing (not to mention less intimidating) than dialing when they want to talk.
So we challenged four members of the HuffPost team to call their friends, without warning (verbal or written) and see how they found it.
‘I’ll take two hours of facebook messaging over a phone call…’
Micha Frazer-Carroll, Intern
Calling people is not something I’m in the habit of doing, let alone calling out of the blue. I get serious phone anxiety –– I’m one of those people who watches my phone ring, freezes, and waits until it stops. I’d take two hours of facebook messaging over a call, even though I don’t feel the same level of connection.
For the challenge I decided to ring my best friend from university. We message regularly, but since I moved back to London we’ve struggled to maintain the same contact as when we lived a staircase away from each other.
Gearing myself up to phone her is the emotional bulk of the task. It feels imposing –– what if she doesn’t want to talk, or finds it annoying? What if she thinks it is some sort of emergency?
Opening up my contacts, I realise there is an ever-so-slightly ridiculous barrier to the entire operation: I don’t have her phone number. My best friend.I open Facebook chat and hit the call button.
The actual conversation is lovely. There’s an element of surprise at first –– she’d been watching The Kardashians on her phone when suddenly my picture had popped up. “I thought you were on the show –– I was like ‘maybe she’s written an article on them and she’s featured in the episode’.” She often says funny things like this; it seems implausible, but maybe that possibility seems more likely to her than me calling out of the blue.
We chat about work, dating and gossip. It occurs to me how easy it is to just pick up the phone; when you’re thinking about someone or wondering how they are, you really can just call. Worst case, they’re busy. I’m resolving to do it more.
“I like to hear laughter instead of ‘hahaha’…”
Tahmina Begum, Reporter
I’m an old soul. I hate texting and I’m really bad at it. I’m that annoying friend who doesn’t think about what they send, hence my one word sentences. I also feel this need to be overly nice by text as the tone can be mistaken for being moody. So when I called my best friends throughout the week, there was no surprise. A few “I don’t have long but let’s keep going while I’m walking home,” curbing any unnecessary waffle.
The reason I prefer a quick phone call is that I like to hear laughter instead of “hahaha” and experience real time response. The other day I went sari shopping for myself for the first time and I called my best friend to tell her about the hilarious things I found, attaching photographs as I spoke to her on the phone.
It was only a four minute call but it was so much better than sending that message via Whatsapp. My best friend wanted to share this moment with me.
Though I appreciate how easy texting is and how it can be woven around your day, I believe someone’s voice holds something within you longer than virtual words. Most of all, if you’re thinking of someone, there’s something more meaningful about calling them up and asking them how they are.
“The problem wasn’t who I should call but rather what I should call them about…”
Thomas Tamblyn, Tech Editor
Having grown up in the generation that saw the great crossover from evenings spent hogging the home phone to the adoption of Pay As You Go texting and instant messaging I thought this task would be a relatively easy.
In truth as I scrolled through my address book it became clear that the problem that faced me wasn’t who I should call but rather what I should call them about.
I settle on one of my friends and am almost immediately greeted with an answerphone message. I try again 10 minutes later and am again greeted with a pre-recorded message. Strong start. I try another friend who answers, he is pleased to hear from me but I can tell from the way we’re talking that he’s waiting for the punchline. You’ve called me so by very definition using your actual voice elevates the importance of whatever it is you’ve got to say.
Except I had nothing important to say and for about 15 minutes we had a chat about each other’s day. I think he was a bit disappointed to be honest, and in truth he had every right to be, I had literally nothing interesting to say.
Afterwards I did feel different and in some way closer to him than if we’d just spent the day messaging on and off. This makes sense though, and in truth I already knew the importance of these calls: at least once a week I play Destiny on the PlayStation with one of my old friends: the game is our shared hobby but in truth those hours we get each week are a chance for us to catch up, update each other on our lives and switch off from reality.
“I’ve been friends with her for 10 years but I feel awkward…”
Amy Packham, Reporter
In total honesty, I felt really anxious about calling my friends. I wanted to caveat the call as soon as they picked up (“I’m doing this thing where I’m phoning not texting that’s why I’m calling you don’t worry!”), which defeats the whole object.
This is completely different to how I’d feel calling my family, by the way. I’ll call them without having an agenda. Within minutes we’ll be in a full-blown conversation about what the neighbours did or what they’re having for dinner.
I Whatsapp my best friends every day, yet if I call them I know they’ll assume something is up. I called one of my best friends on my way home from work – she’s lived round the corner from me for nearly four years and has recently moved into my flat. “Hello?” she answered quizzically. “Hey,” I replied. “Are you gymming today? I’ll be there at 6.” “No,” she said. “I’ve gotta unpack. Are you alright?” “Yeah!” I replied, “I’ll see you later.” It’s a conversation we’ve had about 4,000 times on Whatsapp – so it was weird for me to call. I later told her about the experiment – “I did think it was strange,” she laughed.
I tried it with my best friend who lives the other side of the country – someone I speak to every day on Whatsapp. When big things happen or we need a rant, we may chat on the phone but most of the time we message about things as trivial as what we’re eating or how long it’s taken us to clean the bathroom.
“Hey, you okay?” she answered. “Yeah, I just thought I’d call instead of text!” I feel awkward. I’ve been friends with her for nearly 10 years and she knows this is unlike me. We go a few minutes before I give in and tell her why I’m calling. I can’t help it. She tells me straight away she thought something was up when she saw me calling (“I literally thought oh God what’s happened”). I tell her I’d be the same. She reminds me that the only time she’s called me without any warning was to tell me she was engaged (little did she know I knew and was waiting for the call anyway).
I asked other friends what they’d do if I called them instead of text. “I’d probably assume something was up,” most of them said. And truth be told, they’re right.