Is it Rude to Make Phone Calls?

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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