I hate using the phone outside of work because it's so inconvenient. I have to hold my iPhone up to me ear (and no, I am not getting one of those Bluetooth earpieces). So I've lost the use of one hand. A phone call can take a long time - at least with the people I call it can. Then there's the annoying hand-shaking procedure; "Hey, it's Andrew. Howzit goin'?" "Not bad, and yourself?" "Oh not too shabbs." yadda yadda yadda "Well, I guess it's time for me to go." "Okay, thanks for calling." "Alright. I'll talk to ya later." "Okay, have a good one." "Okay, you too." "Alright, g'bye." "Buh-bye." *Click* The engineer in me sees all that data being translated in the name of social convention. That doesn't happen with IM. Of course, skipping it in a voice call would be rude.
Speaking of rude, there are lots of situations where talking on a cell phone is rude - however socially acceptable. Most people would agree they hate hearing one-sided cell phone conversations, yet a lot of people do it. Unlike land-line calls, cell phone calls can take place in public; on the bus, in line at the store, in a theatre, in a library, etc.
Then there's all those times both people on the phone speak at once, or the reception is bad, or someone can't hear, either because they're not holding the phone in the exact right part of their face, or the other person isn't holding it right, and the sound gets muffled, or silenced, or the talker sounds far away. Then, with these touch screen phones, the buttons are right up against your cheek. I have an iPhone, and my cheeks have hung up on a lot of people. One friend recently called me, and her cheek kept pressing the buttons on her touch-screen phone. I kept hearing "Beep beep beep." It was really annoying.
And let's not forget about dropped calls. I haven't had too many, but they do happen. Some people experience them quite a bit.
Instating Messaging (IM) seems to avoid most of those problems. IM just takes a minute for each one, and can be responded to on convenience. It also gives you time to think about your response. A little bit of reception is the same as strong reception. True, it might take both hands to IM, but it's for a much shorter time. Public is almost the exact same as private. No dropped calls. They can be composed out of reception (like on an elevator) and sent when reception returns.
I consider IM to include texting, tweeting, Facebook chatting, MSN, and other similar technologies. (I don't consider emails to be IM because they can be, and often are, longer.)
Ask anyone who tries to call me. They'll tell you they can't get a hold of me. But people who IM me hear back pretty quickly. I can take a few seconds out to text you, but a phone call may require lots of time to be set aside.
In fact, here's a list of things I typically do during the day that won't stop me from IM, but will stop me from a voice call:
- Lying in bed ready to go to sleep
- Riding on a bus
- Being with a group of friends. (ie: a group large enough where it won't hold things up or seem rude if I IM.)
- Being in a large meeting where my presence is required, but full attention isn't, like Town Halls
- Waiting in line
- Waiting in the theatre for a movie to start
- Church. (Yes, I admit it. I'll do a small amount of IM at some points during church, but a voice call won't happen.)
- Watching TV
- Spending time in Chapters (Bookstore chain in Canada)
- Anywhere where silence is important
- Riding in someone else's car
- A classroom
- If I'm nearing my low minutes-cap on my voice plan
- If I have a laryngitis (Hasn't happened in a while, but you never know.)
- When long distance might be an issue. Don't call me when I'm on vacation in Halifax, but feel free to text me.
- Any other time I just don't feel like talking
- When I'm trying to co-ordinate plans with multiple parties. I can have multiple simultaneous IM conversations, but only one phone call at a time. Of course, you can always do 3-way conversations with the phone, but these are long and tedious compared to IM.
- If I'm trying to have a technical discussion with people and we need to trade programming code, or screen shots, or something visual.
- When I'm communicating for the purpose of catching up, and/or staying in touch. In this case we set a large chunk of time aside to simply communicate.
In other words, if you're wanting to talk to me on the phone, good luck with that. :) My uncle called me 6 days ago. But I was with a friend waiting to be seated in a restaurant, so I didn't answer. I will return his call. Eventually. I promise.
UPDATE: I just found this comic from The Oatmeal that graphically (and humourously) illustrates some problems with phone calls.