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Faux Outrage

Literally the most important blog in the universe since 2010.

Dearest Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is time to move on!  

It is time we recognize that some of us continue to engage in completely inefficient, illogical behavior.  It is time we recognize that we should not expect the present to resemble the past, and that our future should not — and will not! — resemble the present. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is time to move on.

Let’s stop leaving voicemail messages.  Forever.

It is not often suggested that society should take cues from tweens, teenagers, tweenagers, or whatever we are currently calling Our Nation’s Most Insufferable Generation (side note: do not forget that you used to be exactly like them except your clothes were somehow even stupider).

Conventional wisdom suggests that unless you’re looking for the a comprehensive list of talentless pop stars or morbidly curious what it is like to speak with someone born after Y2K, it is probably best to leave these kids alone and hope that they won’t defund medicare and social security when they grow up.

But I recommend that we actually look to them, at least with regard to voicemail.  Simply put: kids don’t get voicemails.  They understand voicemails, sure, but that is precisely why they do not get them.

The next generation knows better.

To be clear, when I say “voicemail,” I’m referring to the voicemail tied to our cell phones.  Though there are plenty of landlines still functioning all over the world, the vast majority of the people I interact with on a daily basis depend primarily on their cell phones.

Every aspect of our voice mailbox is predicated on the technology that preceded it: the answering machine.  We all know that the original purpose of the answering machine was to provide a method for a caller to convey information to a telephone owner without actually speaking to him/her.  The answering machine benefited both the caller, who did not have to call back to convey certain information, and the owner, who did not have to be there to receive it.

The answering machine was a godsend.

Amazingly, though the technology has been around since there was a wall divided East from West Germany, our cell phone voice mailboxes contain the precisely the same instructions that we’ve been boring our friends and family with since the 1980’s.  “You’ve reached the voice mailbox of Soandso.  At the ‘beep,’ please leave your name and number and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.”  I think as a people, we should be beyond this by now.  There are those who do think we have it all figured out, the ones who use their message to record a simple, “You know what to do!”

Apparently, we do not.

Thankfully, understanding the magic of the answering machine is not passed onto the next generation through DNA.  “Kids these days” — the ones who did not grow up relying on this particular technology — are able to view the machine’s usefulness through an objective lens.

And that is a good thing.

So what does the next generation understand that some of us clearly do not? Simple: they understand that the most efficient, effective way to communicate with someone who is not answering their phone is to send that person a text message.

There are those who will deem this practice “impersonal,” but I think that criticism ignores the fact that impersonality is the very essence of the original answering machine: as a rule, you are talking to nobody.  What could be more impersonal than that?  

Text messages provide several benefits over voicemail messages:

  1. Caller is able to communicate ideas quickly
  2. Caller is able to communicate ideas discretely
  3. Receiver instantly receives communication
  4. Receiver is able to quickly read/respond
  5. Receiver is able to discretely read/respond

For example, let’s take a look at this classic Seinfeld clip:

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While it may be a little bit depressing that almost every single telephone-based joke in the Seinfeld clip above would be lost on a member of Generation Text, it is emblematic of the transition that is taking place.  Since the popularization of cell phones, the following situations depicted in the clip no longer resonate:

  1. George is able to listen to an answering machine message as it is being recorded
  2. George picks up the phone in the middle of a message recording
  3. George pretends he does not know that he has been contacted by Allison
  4. George plausibly calls the wrong number in order to avoid communication

The main concern that George has with regard to being “found out” is his not wanting to go to the coffee shop because Allison might spot him there.  Can any of us still imagine a world where our being physically located by chance is the only concern we have if we do not wish to be contacted by an acquaintance or have a plausible excuse for not having received their communications?

George was living in simpler time: simply ignore the answering machine and lay low.

Today, our cell phones give us great power to contact anyone in a moment’s notice, but on the contrary as well.  None of us are ever more than a touchscreen away.  Yet, despite the fact that 21st century technology and society does not resemble this particular Seinfeld episode, many of us pretend that we still live in George Costanza’s world.  

Count yourself among this illustrious group if the piles of cassette tapes stacked behind George and Jerry’s pre-iMac computer did not register as laughably dated.  Etch your name in stone if you also recognized the song being parodied in George’s answering machine message.

Let’s all agree to send text messages instead of leaving voicemails.

Who is with me?

The next generation of Americans may not know much, but they do know the best way to get in touch with each other.  Even if you can bet what they end up talking about won’t make any sense.

In any case, you can stop pretending like this isn’t good news: you hate what your voice sounds like anyway.

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