Shorter Joel Stein
His entire column on video phones here can be abridged to the following with no loss of relevant information:
“I don’t use a video phone because most of the time I look like crap and have no real interest in what the other person’s saying, and I know they look and feel the same way.”
It’s mostly true in my life, especially the looking like crap part. I work at home, which means I’m generally bathrobed and unshaven, and not only do I not want to be seen by others in this state, I’m also more than reasonably sure that others don’t want to see me in that state, either. As for the other part of that statement, it’s not entirely true that I have no real interest in what the other person is saying, but it is true as I get older that with the exception of dear friends with whom I could talk endlessly about nothing for hours at a time because they are dear friends, I wish everyone else I was talking to on the phone would just get to the goddamned point, already. When I’m on the phone with someone digressive, they can’t see me miming stabbing myself in the eye, and if I were on video phone, it wouldn’t be polite to make such an action. I’ll stick with the regular, audio-only phone.
That said, I’ll note — as I believe I’ve noted before — that in this hustle-and-bustle world of the 21st century, I’m using the phone less to talk with people. Whatever, Facebook and Twitter do an admirable job of letting people know I’m still alive and babbling, which on a day-to-day basis is what most people really want to know, anyway. People who want to talk to me in a more specific fashion usually send along an e-mail because I’ve let it be known it’s usually the best way to contact me. Friends who want to chat with me often check in via IM, which I appreciate because it’s both functional — I can communicate and yet still do other stuff at the same time — and it also lets me control when I chat with folks (I put it on when I’m not busy writing).
That leaves a relatively few people — usually good friends of long standing — for whom the primary mode of communication with me is the phone. And to be clear, I actually love chatting with them on the phone; I’m glad they call, and sometimes I will even call them (this happens infrequently enough that they often express surprise when I do). But their numbers really are few. Pretty much everyone else who randomly calls me up gets my “get to the point and don’t waste my time” tone, if in fact I don’t just decide not to answer the phone, which is what I usually do if I’m busy or if the caller ID doesn’t show someone I immediately recognize. This isn’t to say I’m rude; I try to be pleasant but firm. I also exempt from this people for whom it makes sense for them to call here: Neighbors, Athena’s schoolmates and their parents, local folks who do work for us or with whom we do business and so on. But most of the time: Please leave a message.
The irony is that none of this makes it more difficult to talk to me, or at least at me. The blog gets dozens of comments a day, many directed to me, and I might get a similar number of responses to Facebook and Twitter postings. I get dozens of e-mails a day, many of which hope for a response, which I try to provide within a couple of days, even if it’s just “thanks.” Lots of folks IM me, and even with the relative paucity of phone communication, I end up using the thing a fair amount during the day. I’m not hiding from people; I’m just trying to manage it all so I can function. In my bathrobe. Unshaven.