A friend rang me the other day. It’s a friend I speak to every single day but usually on social media or Whatsapp. I’m not sure I’ve ever spoken to this friend on the phone before but we were chatting for about an hour and it was lovely.
I was standing in our kitchen, on the phone, drinking a cup of tea. I pottered around a bit, wandered around aimlessly and just kept chatting on the phone. I laughed with my friend, chatted and had one of the nicest hours I have had in a long time – just talking on the phone.
I wasn’t on my laptop. I wasn’t watching TV. I wasn’t doing anything really apart from talking to my friend on the phone. I couldn’t even absentmindedly scroll through Twitter or Instagram as I was using my phone for the call.
I think that friend had the most dedicated time I have given anyone recently. It was a phone conversation with no other distractions, an hour of just her and I. It was lovely.
I said to my friend, more than once, how weird it was to be talking on the phone. How I couldn’t remember the last time I spoke to a friend on the phone, how phones are generally reserved for family members we don’t see often and who we have the same conversations with every few weeks – how are you, how are the kids, any news… It’s not quite the same as chatting to a friend you know so well. Yet, talking to a friend on the phone, passing an hour just the two of us, was such an alien feeling and I realised it’s not something I had really done since my teens – it felt positively retro.
It made me realise that I use my phone constantly. The first thing I do in the morning is look at TimeHop, to see what I was doing on that day last year, the year before or the year before that. I then check social media in case something incredible has happened overnight – it never has. I then check my email in case anyone has emailed me between the hours of midnight and 7am – they never have.
Through the day I use my phone constantly. I take photos and put them on Instagram. I keep up with any posts that need my attention in Facebook groups and I reply to things across social media. I check my emails regularly, I moderate blog comments and I chat to friends on Whatsapp, Facebook messenger or sometimes even in text messages – generally only if someone doesn’t have wi-fi signal and only the most basic of phone signal.
I do all this intermittently whilst at work, on a day out, at home with the kids. My phone is like another arm and I probably shouldn’t use it as much – but I do, and that isn’t the issue. The issue is that I use my phone for so much but very rarely do I use it for the purpose it was intended. Very rarely do I actually talk to anyone on the phone.
I ring people if there’s an emergency. Other than that I use any one of the many messaging services available. I send them a message, they reply when they have the time. That is the way it has been for years and it makes social life quite relaxed. I like it like that.
But having a phone call with a good friend was eye opening to me. I had forgotten how nice it was to just chat, to laugh with someone hundreds of miles away and to feel like they were in the same room with you. I’d forgotten what it was like to not be checking my phone constantly, not to be distracted by my laptop or TV whilst having conversations and what it was like to use a phone for a conversation that I didn’t need to have – but really wanted to have.
It was a conversation without purpose. A conversation that jumped from topic to topic and one that didn’t achieve much. But it was an uninterrupted hour with a friend who I don’t get to see often at all and who I wish I could see more of.
Phone calls shouldn’t feel retro and phones really should be used more for the purpose they were intended. I for one will be taking the time to chat to friends, without distractions from now on. My modern phone will never again feel like the retro Fisher Price phones of childhood and instead it will do what it was made to do – bring friends closer when they are just so far away, let us catch up and make the distance seem less, if only for an hour.