Phone Calls: A Millennial's Lament

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Have you watched Only Murders in the Building? It’s a delight. If you haven’t seen it yet, I won’t be giving anything away. But I will tell you it’s about a threesome of detectives comprising two older guys — played by Steve Martin and Martin Short — and a younger woman, played by Selena Gomez. 

Gomez was born in 1992, which puts her toward the tail end of what’s considered a millennial, (a person born from 1977 to 1995). I was born in 1985, which puts me smack-dab in the middle. There’s no mistaking my millennialness. 

Anyway, there’s a scene in which Martin’s character is texting Gomez’s character, and he says, “Should I call her?” Short scrunches up his face and shakes his head. “It really upsets them,” he says. “Them,” in this case, being “younger people.” As a millennial, I laughed out loud. It really does upset us! I can think of nothing more alarming than my phone ringing in any unplanned way, especially if it lights up with the name of a person I know. Why would my brother call me without giving me a heads-up? Same goes for my husband. This may sound like a sad state of affairs, but millennials are just planners. We always text each other first. “You around and want to chat?” An unannounced phone call might as well be an alarm going off: “Something’s wrong!”

Probably 'til about 10 years ago, I did use phone calls a lot more frequently. I would call friends to catch up or ask a quick question or make plans. Back then, getting someone on the line to talk was normal. It was also, if we’re being honest, time-consuming and sometimes impractical. So we have dug into text messaging as our primary form of communication, along with other forms of communication like emails and social media. In that sense, we’ve almost become pen pals with everyone in our lives. And I honestly think it’s great. I get to talk to my best friend all day every day, something I know we wouldn’t have time for if we were relying solely on actual phone calls. Text-based communication makes us a more frequent part of one another’s lives. 

Even as someone who doesn’t see phone calls as the best (and certainly not primary) form of communication, I do have a soft spot for them. My brother and I talk voice-to-voice about once a week, and I always leave feeling closer to him, even though we spend most of our workdays texting one another. The same goes for my two best friends, who I’m in constant communication with, but every now and then we will schedule time to talk on the phone.

Phone calls are a special thing for me, primarily because they aren’t my go-to form of communication. So when I set aside time for one, I really make the time. I find somewhere comfortable to sit, I pour a glass of wine or a cup of coffee, and I curl up with a blanket to really focus on the conversation. It’s different from when I used to call friends just to ask one thing or to make plans. Instead, phone calls have become an event — just like getting together with someone is an event. It’s time set aside to really have a conversation and just be with someone, if only with their voice. That is special.

Phone calls are only bolstered by the other forms of communication we’ve infused our lives with. Because of texting, we’re able to stay connected between phone calls, and we’re able to make phone calls more of an occasion. And I, for one, find phone calls fulfilling — when they’re properly planned, that is.

Tags: communication, family, Friends, relationships, Social Media

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Lauren Harkawik

Lauren Harkawik is an essayist, journalist, and fiction writer in Vermont, where she and her husband are raising their daughters. See Full Bio

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