Carolina Holistic Medicine | Functional & Alternative Medicine | Charleston, SC

Text to Phone Call you

Text to Phone Call you

Op-ed by JP Saleeby, MD


When I was growing up and able to use the land-line phone, life was much simpler.  Call to grandmothers or to a school chum… You would pick up the phone and call and hope they were at home or there was someone who could take and pass along a message for you to call back.  Much later came the answering machine.  That bit of technology was utilitarian but if you never got a call back you would wonder if the recipient ever got your message or were they just ignoring you.

Fast forward to the time where the advent of the pager (beeper) when I was a resident in my medical training.  This was before the common use of cellphones.  A pager would go off with either a voice or a digital phone number in which to call back.  They you would have to find a phone someone good natured enough would let you use if you were outside of the hospital and not at home.

A few more years later the only folks carrying cell phones were doctors like neurosurgeons and orthopedists, or CEOs of big companies, or leaders of illicit drug cartels.  If it rang, it was so novel you don’t seek to find the caller-ID you just answered it.  It was usually important.  “Hey, Pablo the Feds are on your tail.”

Now in the 2020’s the ‘’thing’’ is to text in advance of a phone call or zoom meeting.  God forbid if you cold call anyone.  You must now make an appointment and compare schedules for availability and plan ahead for a ‘’phone call’’.  What?  Yeah, even with family members.  Want to do a group zoom meeting to call your 80-year-old aunt to wish a happy birthday from relative all over the USA I get that.  But to speak with a good friend or not even a good friend, it is common etiquette to now ask permission via a text or email (who checks emails these days).  This goes for dropping by someone’s home you know to say Hi.  Got to text them before you can ring their doorbell.

With the rapid exchange of information seen on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TickTalk, and other time-sucking social media apps it surprises me that we have to waste so much time making plans for a simple phone call.  Maybe it is because we are all so darn busy and distracted with these social media platforms that we just don’t have time for good-ol’ basic communications.  

Oh, and the time wasted with texting back and forth.  The time it takes to type (and I got clumsy fingers, so it takes me forever) the partially finished answer to a text question or incomplete transmission of a thought or ‘’conversation’’ requires a repeat back and forth of texts like a bad pickleball game.  A lot can go wrong here with some horrible miscommunications.  For heaven’s sake pick up the darn phone and make a 30-second phone call to completely and efficiently get the message across.

Gone are the days of complete sentences and phone etiquette and decent fun conversations.  Now there is uber anxiety about a call.  Will I be disturbing that person; are they in a compromising situation; are they asleep; in the middle of lovemaking?  Hell, are they on the phone talking about me to another person?

I fear that as the days of old in penning a sweet letter to a loved one or sending a ‘’get well card’’ in the mail (snail mail that is) are gone, replaced by e-mail or a cold text message, so are the days of a real live phone call.


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