The telephone man


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No one picks up the phone anymore

The lost desire to pick up your phone 👋📵


We invented the telephone out of the desire to communicate. We developed the internet to increase connectivity and expand our reach. Thomas Friedman summed up the borderless Earth by writing ‘[easyazon_link identifier=”0374292795″ locale=”US” tag=”wells01-20″]The World Is Flat[/easyazon_link].’

The facilitation of immediacy through text and social media killed the telephone ring. According to a recent Atlantic article from Alexis Madrigal:

“No one picks up the phone anymore. Even many businesses do everything they can to avoid picking up the phone. Of the 50 or so calls I received in the last month, I might have picked up four or five times. The reflex of answering—built so deeply into people who grew up in 20th-century telephonic culture—is gone.”

What novelty or variety of internet tools will we see next?

The infusion of bots and AI-driven conversations further complicate the human will to communicate.

Whether it’s Siri or Alexa, the urge to chat means anyone or anything that responds will be on-demand. No one will place calls unless they can guarantee a receiver on the other end.

The cell phone ring follows in the footsteps of ringtones, not dead but annoying. With mindfulness on the verge, push messages may be next to be silenced while snail mail and email inboxes will continue to go unread.

Cusco in wires


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Photo by Wells Baum

Credited with patenting the first telephone, Alexander Graham Bell also foresaw a broader network of interconnected wires. Just because it doesn’t exist yet, doesn’t mean you can’t imagine it.

From the article ‘Only Connect’ on Technics History:

…it is conceivable that cables of telephone wires could be laid underground, or suspended overhead, communicating by branch wires with private dwellings, country houses, shops, manufactories, etc., etc., uniting them through the main cable with a central office where the wires could be connected as desired, establishing direct communication between any two places in the city… Not only so, but I believe, in the future, wires will unite the head offices of the Telephone Company in different cities, and a man in one part of the country may communicate by word of mouth with another in a distant place.

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Image by Wells Baum

Going back to [the visionary philosopher of communication theory] Marshall McLuhan: everything is an extension of our desire for connection. We couldn’t see far enough, we invented the telescope. We wanted to communicate across distances, we invented the telephone. Then, we wanted to connect with everyone and share all these ideas, and we invented the Internet.

Tiffany Schlain