For my analog experience, I decided to call one of my friends instead of relying on texting or social media for our interaction on that day. I decided that my friend Abby would be the perfect person to call, because of the fact that she still uses a flip phone, making communication between us clumsy from the get-go. We never really text because of the fact that the keyboard on her phone forces her to click a number on the keypad multiple times in order to get the desired letters onto her screen, so most of the interactions that we have are in-person whenever I see her in New York. I told her to call me whenever she had the chance, also meaning that the call I got from her would be at least kind of a surprise.
She called me around noon on Wednesday, and I was immediately anxious when I felt my phone vibrate in my back pocket. Even though I knew it would be Abby calling (no one else would call me, except for maybe my Mom if she really needed me), the sensation of the intense vibration in my pocket was still enough to make me uneasy from the start. It took me a few seconds to answer the phone, mostly because I wasn’t sure exactly what I should say upon picking up. I realized that time was running out to answer, and with a flick of my touch screen I put the phone up to my ear and let out an awkward “Hey, Abby.”
I definitely remained awkward for most of the conversation, but what was so interesting about talking to Abby is that she was so used to phone calls that her personality on the phone was actually quite comforting. “Hey, I’m at the coffee shop right now, so I can only talk for a sec,” she said. I had been at that Bushwick coffee shop around the corner from her apartment many times, and on a few occasions I had witnessed Abby waiting in line while making a phone call. Talking on the seemed to be part of her own routine, so switching out her Mom or best friend from high school with me for her morning gabbing session didn’t seem to phase her at all. I, on the other hand, felt way too much pressure to say as much as I could in the few minutes we had to talk, trying to make conversation as productive as possible.
“So, what are your plans for the weekend? Do you want to do anything together?” I asked.
“Sure, why not!” She answered, but immediately followed her response with an anecdote about an art piece she was working on in her studio. She didn’t allow for even a second of silence, which was comforting for me in the sense that I didn’t have to think too much about what topic we should talk about, but it was always frustrating for me to try and articulate my response without stuttering or tripping over my words.
It felt like we had talked for a good chunk of time, and when she said “Okay, I’m getting on the subway now, bye!” I hung up the phone only to see that we had really only talked for about 7 minutes.
When reflecting on it, I think that the time that we spoke on the phone was interesting because 7 minutes in a conversation through text could yield only one sent message and one received in return. I have grown accustomed to these long, pregnant pauses between responses, and in fact I relish them–they allow me to articulate myself and assess whether my planned initial response is sufficient or not. But in 7 minutes Abby and I talked about how our weeks were going, what art project she is working on, and even our plans for the upcoming weekend, topics that would probably take a few hours worth of texting in order to result in our respective responses.
For that reason I think that calling Abby was probably really effective in the sense that her own limitations with her cell phone make it the easiest option for us to communicate (when we aren’t face to face), but in my interactions with fellow smartphone users, I think I prefer the air of caution that surrounds our text conversations.