I Just Can’t Talk to You

by Barb, in Boothbay Harbor on a gorgeous spring day (finally)

I’ve noticed lately that many of my relationships are defined by technology preferences–both my own and those of the people I communicate with.

I am an e-mail person–pure and simple. I’ve written before on the blog about how much I hate the phone. Phone calls require synchronous communication–both people have to be on at the same time for meaningful information to be transferred–which means it interrupts whatever you are doing when the call happens, and I hate to be interrupted. I accept that this is a personality quirk. I hate sudden changes of plan, too. I have the whatever the opposite of ADD is. Also, I hate that when you’re talking on the phone, you can’t see the other person’s face and judge it for comprehension, attention, acceptance and so on.

So I hate the phone. And unfortunately, that has caused many of my relationships with my phone-preferring friends to drift away. I’ve stayed closest to the distant people in my life who prefer my main mode of communication.

To me, e-mail was a miracle. It doesn’t have to be synchronous and, as a writerly person, I have time to craft my message. The pressure is off in all kinds of ways. When we first got e-mail, there was quite a long period, over a decade, when it could only be used for internal communication at work. It was a huge improvement over copying memos and sticking them in people’s physical mailboxes, and later a great way to communicate with far-flung colleagues. Then, miracle of miracles, e-mail moved outside the company so we could communicate with customers, suppliers, investors. Fantastic! My social use of e-mail increased on a pace with my use of it at work.

In a final miraculous step, e-mail appeared on my phone. That formerly loathed device. As a Chief Operating Officer at two higher ed technology companies, Customer Support ultimately reported to me. As you can imagine, our busy season was at the start of the fall semester in the northern hemisphere. From early August when many state college systems in the American south went back to work, through the end of September when the UK universities came online, I was virtually chained to my desk. But when I could follow the long e-mail support threads on my phone to monitor what was going on, I could go anywhere and do anything as long as no real emergency was taking place.

Alas, as with all technologies, the world has moved on. I know that if I send an evite to a family event, I have to text all my nieces and nephews to GO LOOK AT YOUR E-MAIL, because they never check it. My son, in his mid-thirties, was complaining that the youngest member of his Dungeons and Dragons group, in his early twenties, has asked that they not communicate about dates and places for games via e-mail because he doesn’t know how to use it.

And the number of ways people reach out is a problem for me. Sometimes I have to search all over, through my Facebook private messages, my Facebook fanpage private messages, Twitter and Instragram direct messages, and my Goodreads mailbox, looking for a message from a fan I know I want to get back to. Don’t get me wrong, I love getting fan mail, but it always puts me in mind of Drew Barrymore’s lament in He’s Just Not That Into You:

I have learned to text a fair amount, though I’m not good at keeping my phone by my side at all times, which my family finds mega-frustrating. I’ll adapt. I’ll learn, but I think I’ll always default to technologies that support my personality and don’t fight it.

Readers: What about you? Do you have a preferred mode of communication? What and why? Do you find it hard to keep in touch with people who have different preferences? Spill it all here.

54 Thoughts

  1. E-mail first and foremost and then texts at a pinch (I also dislike phone calls!)

  2. Oh, Barb, I so agree about phone calls. Please just email me. That way I have a written account of what is communicated. I don’t have to trust that I heard you right or remember what you said. I can just re-read it and respond accordingly. At least, that’s what I tell people who want to call me about something. The truth is–what you said about interruption. I feel like “don’t bother me! I love you but I don’t want to talk to you!”

    1. So true about the written record. I don’t know how many times in the last few days alone I’ve gone back and confirmed some piece of informations (date, time, place) that was in an e-mail.

  3. I love email. You can’t imagine how helpful it was when I was going through a divorce with an angry man. I no longer had to listen to his tirades on the phone, and I had a record of them in writing.

    I hear you on hunting down messages all over the place. (And, wait – you can get direct messages on Instagram?) Even though I use messaging on Facebook, I hate that tiny default box in the corner. I know I can expand it into a whole screen but that’s not the default. And don’t get me started on texting. Yes, it’s quick and easy for the kids. But it’s slow and laborious for me.

    But there’s nothing like a phone call with my loved ones, including my best friend who lives an hour away. It’s so good to settle into the couch with a glass of wine and catch up with one son or the other, or with my sisters or my bestie.

    1. I so agree on the usability of Facebook messaging. (Or unusability, as it were.) That I can’t easily delete the spammy ones with one obvious click drives me nuts.

      I do use the phone with family, but I don’t do those long, chatty conversations.

  4. Email is my life. I do make phone calls regularly–to my mother and siblings–but that’s it. I do FB message, but only with one or two people. Texting is very helpful for traveling, but when I am home, my phone sits in my purse. I will talk on my cell phone when necessary, but that’s less fun than the land line. Yes, we still have a land line.
    I love that you can fill out a form online to make a doctor’s appt rather than wait on hold. I love that you can refill a prescription without going to the drug store with a piece of paper. I love that I can take a photo with my phone and email it to myself and post it on my blog. Just don’t call me to talk about it!

    1. Yes–online forms for doctors and prescriptions and hairdressers and manicurists and pretty much anything transactional! I often feel like saying to service providers–if we can’t do our business online, I don’t want to do business.

  5. So with you on the phone. As soon as I am done with the day job that’s the last I want of the phone and 99% of the time it’s on DND – I’d rather respond to a voice message so I can prepare for the chat than be subject to a cold call, sorry! E-mail is a blessing. Although I confess, I store the personal ones for the weekend so I have time to really respond.
    Here’s a real secret, B&N had a sale on notepaper – I bought some. I may even try it out!

    1. I do write notes, but mostly of the thank you or condolence variety. (Or, congratulations! You’ve won a book–but that’s another story.) I do write to my granddaughter ever month, just to say hi and let her know we’re thinking about her.

  6. E-mail is great..people can read what I write there. My handwriting has gotten worse as I have gotten older. I like it too for all the reasons stated above.

  7. I’ve hated phones since the first time I used one. I was about seven, and to call the only person whose number I knew (a friend who lived on the next house over), I had to tell an operator (!) the number. This was in a Philadelphia suburb. I always got flustered and gave her my own number by mistake.

    It has never improved. Now, of course, we get a dozen or more robocalls each day. Thank goodness for a screen that shows who’s calling. Note to my non-electronic friends: either use your name, or leave me a message. I don’t answer strings of numbers.

    Love email. But like Barb, I text my daughter to tell her to read her emails. She’s moved on. What will be next?

    1. I got a robocall at breakfast yesterday. Like you said, just numbers, from NYC. I didn’t answer and later checked out the number online. Spam. Ugh.

  8. I prefer emails as well. They give you time to reflect on what you want to say and to convey that message so that’s interpreted in the manner you mean it to be. It’s instant in delivery unlike snail mail which is a dead art it seems. I use my cell phone very little. Folks laugh at me because I still have a flip phone. If not for the fact that I seem to have a tendency of falling and needing help from my hubby who loves to be outside working in the yard, I’d not have a phone at all. That’s the reason for the flip phone. It fits in my jean pocket where it’s forgotten until I am getting ready for bed and take my jeans off. So if you want to chat with me, send an email. If it’s urgent, send a text to my phone saying check emails.

    1. Yes–time to reflect and to craft a message. I so agree.

      I do have a smartphone, and as I said, email on my phone is a bit of a miracle for me. Changed my life.

  9. Oh, Barb, I am chortling over this, remembering how we sat silent next to each other at the Malice Breakfast listening to our more awake table mates. Next time, I’ll send you an email, which is also MY preferred communication medium!!

    1. Laughing, Mary, though I think that had more to do with my not being a morning person and you being on west coast time.

      So I am not a morning person and I don’t use the phone. I am starting to sound eccentric.

  10. Email is fine for me. I use it to talk to my daughter during the day (although she insists on using the email I have for groups like the Guppies and that account doesn’t get checked as frequently, so I’ll get texts “read your email”).

    I like texting with my dad because it keeps him focused on the conversation. I love him dearly, but there is no such thing as a “short” conversation with him and I don’t always have a free hour.

    I’m okay with phone calls, but usually the people who call me text first and ask: “Are you going to be around tonight? I’ll call you.” That way I can set aside time to chat. Phone calls in the middle of the day – only in emergencies, please.

    I also don’t answer strings of numbers. You’re either a contact (so I have your number) or you can leave a message.

    What is most disruptive are things like monthly calls to refill my MS prescription. I have begged and pleaded for automatic refills. Nope. “We can’t do that. What if your address has changed? What if…?” Ugh.

    1. Yes, scheduled phone calls are way better than sudden ones. Often there’s a topic to discuss, so I know when the call will be and what it’s about.

      My pharmacy loves to contact me a zillion ways–text, call, enter info for refills using the keypad on your phone, etc. Honestly I’d love not to be in communication with them so much.

  11. Thanks, Barb. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one to prefer email to texting. And don’t even ask me about Instagram. My grandson signed me up, but I ignore it. And, yes, I have to tell grandkids to check their email.

  12. I apologize for the times (infrequent) that I’ve called you — LOL. I agree that the problem is there are too many ways to be contacted as you listed above. Right before Malice I was trying to track down a conversation and couldn’t find it. The other party realized it was through Facebook PMs. Yeesh.

  13. I like phone calls. You can detect on a live phone call if someone is or isn’t really ok, whether there’s an attitude or not, Text, emails, Instagram, Facebook,,all that can be misleading. Plus phone calls, you can say what you have to say, in ( what seems to me) a fraction of the time and be done with it..emails or text, sometimes you have to wait hours or even days for a response

    1. Finally a shout-out for the phone! I actually think verbal communication is more frequently misunderstood than written, but it’s true that on the phone you can straighten out misunderstandings pretty quickly. On e-mail threads it can take forever.

  14. I hate it when phone calls interrupt me. Most often its some scammer trying get me to send money or buy a bogus service. I even had one yesterday claiming to be from PCH asking for $2000.00 to cover my entry fee. LOL

    I do love making phone calls. Especially to my kids, just to annoy them. I call at the most inconvenient times. JUST LIKE THEY DO TO ME! LOL

    My cell phone will do txt and e-mail. I have my yahoo and gmail account hooked to it. I’m on Twitter, FB, G+, Pinterest and can’t remember all the others. Do they make things more interesting? I have no idea because there’s not enough time in the day to keep them all up to date.

  15. And to think we used to write letters! By the way, they don’t teach cursive writing in a lot of schools any more. Good news -bad news: Now doctors have to type correctly for prescriptions ! Technology moves at the speed of light and we all have to learn on the fly. I try to keep it to email and texting and a very small bit of Facebook but it is all still changing. I have to add more and I am not sure I want to! I do use my phone but hate the political robo and marketing calls. Yet I still get an average of thirty pieces of junk mail in my mailbox in an average election season week or insurance signup season week, including for the ex-husband that never lived in this town!

    1. I know. First the snail mail turned almost entirely to junk, and now the phone has followed. I do get a lot of junk in my e-mail, but it’s easy to delete, click, click, click. A couple of times a year, usually after I hand in a manuscript, I go into a binge of unsubscribing.

  16. I’m with you on the phone. I hate it, to the point where I disconnected my cell phone over a year ago now. I haven’t missed it once.

    1. Wow! That’s impressive. I still need my phone for texts and emails, and for all those forms that demand a phone number, even though they swear they’ll never call you.

  17. Oh, Barbara, did you strike a cord. I hate phone calls as I am on the phone all day for my job. By the time I get to the personal part of my life, the last thing I want to do is talk on the phone. I love to e-mail (because as you said it gives me time to edit my response) and because it is available when I am and not the other way around. For quick responses and follow-ups, I love to text. Thanks for letting me know I am not the only one to hate speaking on the phone.

    1. I’m impressed you can be on the phone all day for your job. I would find that exhausting! I find it interesting that despite your vast phone experience, you still prefer e-mail for your personal life.

  18. I love email and have learned to like texting with my daughter and a couple of other people. I am on no social media of any kind. I don’t need it for any reason and it is just a time-suck. I like talking on the phone to a couple of folks, but seldom make a call except for business reasons. I, too, never answer a call from a “number”. If it doesn’t have a name attached, I’m not interested. Leave a message if it is important. I’ll get back to you if I want. My phone is not attached to my hand so I may not even know you have tried to contact me until I check my email – which I get on my phone or my home computer. And, yeah, I have to sometimes tell my daughter to read her email!

  19. I’m bad about sending e-mails. Or calling people. Or texting people. Really, I’m just bad at staying in touch with people period.

    1. And I should point out that if you want me to be spontaneous (which includes phone calls), you need to give me six hours advanced notice.

    2. Mark, I don’t know you but that makes me sad. I firmly believe friendships are like gardens–they take frequent care and tending, and these days we do that by email, phone, and texting. It’s sad to lose touch with people who have been a part of your life. Not a lectutr–just another viewpoint.

    3. LOL, Mark. My boss used to come into my office and say, “Tomorrow, I am going to tell you something that will blow your mind.” She knew if I had a little time to prepare the conversation would go much better.

  20. I generally don’t like phone calls, except when I want to hear the other person’s voice. My problem with phone calls is that my family (and me) all have ADD. So I’ll be in the middle of telling a funny story and they won’t even be listening. And I’m guilty of it just as much with my husband. Ironically enough, my best conversations happen in the car. I’m less apt to let my mind wander when I’m concentrating on talking and driving. Texting is my favorite mode, Followed by emails. I love emails for lengthy catch up sessions.

  21. Until texting came along, my prior method of keeping up often with family and friends, was email. Emailing is so much more effective and downright more “polite” than disturbing someone by phone. You write at your convenience and they respond at their convenience….that is the way it should be to me. I do not walk well or fast, so always having to get to a house phone before someone hung up was and is very difficult. And trying to retrieve messages was a pain. With cell phones, it is so much easier to take a call as mine is with me for 99% of the time as it’s my method of communication in case of any emergency. If I don’t want to talk at that moment, or can’t speak due to where I am, I let it go to voicemail mail or I simply swipe ignore and call the person back if and when I want to talk. Many calls are robo calls so then you don’t have to answer and can block them each time they sequence call.

    Texting is perfect for our grandchildren to let us know what time to pick them up at school after track or other after school activities.

    I absolutely love cell phones for when my husband and I are are on a trip for notifying family back home with texting especially where we are and how our trips are going each day to relieve their minds from worry. And having printed word text or email to check facts later on is worth it’s weight in …..phone bills. 😁.

    So my answer is yes yes yes to written communication as compared to phone calls for just about every reason you can mention. Even my doctor’s send texts to remind and confirm appointments…it’s perfect for both of us.
    Just my opinions but it works so well for me I wanted to share.

  22. I love this post. I agree about email–I loved it, but now feel as though it has jumped the shark. I am not a phone fan, but have taken to calling folks to discuss things. It freaks them out.

      1. “Freaking out” brought back the past. I used to be married to a surgeon whose phone would ring in the night (no cell phones then) for emergencies. I was unused tot hat and sure that each ring meant the end of the world. He’d find me at the foot of the bed, cowering under the covers. I never suspected the phone of bringing good news–always tragedy.

  23. Nice to know we share this quirk. For the same reasons. My friends are always on me for not calling more. Prefer emailing or actually visiting face to face whenever we can. I resort to texting for those who don’t email (and it does have other benefits, too) and similarly it helps to keep family and friends from being pissed at me!

  24. I so hate talking on the phone. It gives me such anxiety that I don’t get when talking to someone in person, for some reason. I like email, and use it for longer messages, stories, etc. but most of the people I communicate with regularly, don’t email much. I therefore rely mostly on texting these days. I like that it’s short, sweet, and easy.

  25. Not tethered to my phone. People want to use texting to my personal phone…I have skype on my work PC and email…and a desk phone. For family & friends…if you want an immediate response —- call either home or cell. Otherwise I will answer text at my convenience not yours.

  26. Email, even though I am having to furiously slash at it to keep it near 12,047 (it was at 14k+ last week).

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