More than once, my sister has made a complaint about my habits.
I’m disorganized. Schedule-wise, I fly by the seat of my pants. There always seems to be something on my shirt. I kiss my dog (and allow her to return the affection) a lot. But, likely, her largest complaint about me is that I often do not answer her phone calls.
All of the above is true.
It’s not that I don’t love her — I certainly do — or that I’m avoiding her, I just look at cell phones a bit differently than most folks — especially those of my generation.
Here’s my mantra: If it rings, I do not feel the need to stop everything I’m doing and answer the call. That’s what voicemail is for. And truthfully, if I’m having a conversation with someone and they answer their ringing phone, I find that to be entirely rude.
Now, I’m not saying there are no exceptions. If it’s an emergency or an important call I’m expecting, I will excuse myself from the conversation or pause in my activity to answer the phone. As a reporter, I was known to literally sprint across a building in heels if I heard my phone ringing while expecting a source to call back for an important story. Furthermore, if I’m “chitty-chattin’” — or having an unimportant conversation for you well-versed folks — and the other person’s phone rings, I will excuse myself so that they may choose to politely answer their phone.
Remember back when there were no cell phones? Back when you were only available for a phone call at home between work and school hours? Back when you called someone, received no answer and thought, “Well, Susie isn’t home,” or prayed you didn’t wake up an entire sleeping family.
No answer? That was it. You didn’t get mad. You just called back later over and over until they answered.
I do remember those days, but admittedly, barely. I’m showing my age here.
Today’s children have no concept of a world without cell phones. Between calls, texting, the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and the literally thousands of other media outlets available through a palm-sized computer, our society is constantly plugged in. As a newspaper editor, I would say I’m more plugged in than the average person.
Here are some stunning statistics:
It’s estimated 91 percent of all people on Earth have a mobile phone, and 50 percent own smart phones.
Two hundred trillion text messages are received every single day. That’s more than an entire year’s worth of regular mail received in the entire United States.
The average American teen sends 3,339 text messages each month, an increase of 556 percent in two years.
Texting is the second most common use of cell phones. Get this: The most popular is not actually making calls — it’s checking the time.
Combining online and mobile devices, one study expects U.S. adults to spend five hours and 46 minutes with digital media daily this year, increasing digital’s lead over television for the first time ever. Adults will spend well over one hour per day more with digital media (anchored by mobile phones) than watching television.
More than a quarter of U.S. homes have completely ditched their land lines and rely totally on cell phones, according to another study reported in the Wall Street Journal in August 2013. Personally, I would venture to say that number has continued to balloon. I’m one of those folks.
In 2015, Americans will spend $1.8 million on mobile devices.
With new technology must come new social norms and expectations. We’re rewriting what is polite, I suppose, as we have new social situations.
So just as you may not feel it appropriate to jump up from the dinner table in the middle of your family’s evening meal to chat with a friend on the landline, I do not feel it necessary to answer my cell phone. The same goes at the workplace. If I’m having a discussion with a reporter about a story and my office line rings, I will not cut off the reporter in mid-sentence to answer the call.
Leave a voicemail. I promise I’ll call you back when I have the opportunity.
Or, I’ll show my age and send you a text.