Is it Rude to Make Phone Calls?

In the age of the text message and social media, phone calls have finally become an invasion of privacy.

By Pamela Paul | originally in The New York Times from Reader's Digest | September 2011

Nobody calls me anymore—and that’s just fine. With the exception of immediate family members, who mostly phone to discuss medical symptoms and arrange child care, and the fund-raising team from a local theater company, which takes a diabolical delight in phoning me every few weeks at precisely the moment I am tucking in my children, people just don’t call. It’s at the point where when the phone does ring—and it’s not my mom, dad, husband, or babysitter—my first thought is, What’s happened? What’s wrong? My second thought is, Isn’t it weird to just call like that? Out of the blue? With no e-mailed warning?

I don’t think it’s just me. Sure, teen-agers gave up the phone call aeons ago. But I’m a long way from my teenage years, back when the key rite of passage was getting a phone in your bedroom or (cue Molly Ringwald gasp) a line of your own. In the past five years, full-fledged adults have seemingly given up the telephone—landline, mobile, voice mail, and all.

According to Nielsen Media, we’re spending less and less on cell phone calling plans and more on texting. “I literally never use the phone,” Jonathan Adler, the interior designer, told me. (Alas, by phone, but it had to be.) “Sometimes I call my mother on the way to work because she’ll be happy to chitty chat. But I just can’t think of anyone else who’d want to talk to me.” Then again, he doesn’t want to be called either. “I’ve learned not to press Ignore on my cell phone, because then people know that you’re there,” Mr. Adler said. “I remember when I was growing up, the rule was, Don’t call anyone after 10 p.m. Now the rule is, Don’t call anyone. Ever.”

Phone calls are rude. Intrusive. Awkward. “Thank you for noticing something that millions of people have failed to notice since the invention of the telephone until just now,” Judith Martin, aka Miss Manners, said. “I’ve been hammering away at this for decades. The telephone has a very rude propensity to interrupt people.”

Can you hear me now?
27 percent of adults have no landline phone.
23 percent say they’re likely to give up their landline soon.
40 percent of teens would like to stay in touch with their grandparents by text.
40 percent of smart-phone owners say they’d pay to have voice mails transcribed into e-mails.

Sources: Pew Research Center, TextPlus, Yap

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  • Your Comments

    • Halltrimm

      Can we add to the rudeness that is people like this author: not answering my call because Caller ID doesn’t recognize the number I’m dialing from. If I was held up, they took my phone and the officer is just nice enough to let me use hers. Or where ever I am, if I don’t have my phone for some tragic reason, you’re sitting there not helping because you’re afraid to take a wrong call. Whatever did we do before caller ID?

    • Jack

      It’s a shame that actual conversation with a human being is now labeled as rude and intrusive. Sorry to drag you folks out of your self-absorbed bubble, but sometimes you have to deal with the real world that exists outside of your smartphone.

    • Jack

      It’s a shame that actual conversation with a human being is now labeled as rude and intrusive. Sorry to drag you folks out of your self-absorbed bubble, but sometimes you have to deal with the real world that exists outside of your smartphone.

    • Lee

      disagree 100%.  I feel that the a conversation made up of nothing but quick texts and sloppy emails are what is destroying the ability for people to communicate.  
      I miss the days that I would talk to my friends on the phone and make plans for the night.  Or just to talk about the day.  Unless it is only a quick question, I call people.  And, yes, a phone call can be invasive… but that is when I put my phone on vibrate and can ignore it until a better time.
      For the record, I am 30.  

    • michelle

      I don’t know…I find people expect a text message back right away too. Still intrusive.

    • bruzer

      I would much rather be called than texted.  I find a text message rude when a phone call will do.