Should Have Called!

Lee is a single father of a beautifully protesting teenager. He works hard. Between that, all the responsibilities at home, and other personal tasks there is not much time left for anything else. Lee holds a socially graceful status amongst friends and the hardest task for people around him is to dislike him. As a friend, he’s the most miss-able person. Lee is not very much into gadgets and computers, and it was only recently when he finally put up a profile on Facebook. In one of the social gatherings, Lee got introduced to Jane and they kind of hit it off.

Lee and Jane started hanging out, doing sporty kind of activities, and having long conversation. After a while, Lee felt a connection and decided to ask Jane out to dinner to get to know her in a better environment for a face to face interaction. So he sent a text message to Jane, which by then, was the preferred method of communication between the two, asking [Hi Jane, what are you doing on Thursday night?]. The response to that text was something that left Lee in a state whereby he felt both failed and helpless. Jane’s response said [are you asking me out on a date by texting? If so, you ‘should have called!’]

Factually, some 83% of American adults own cell phones and three-quarters of them (73%) send and receive text messages. When asked those texters how they prefer to be contacted on their cell phone, 31% said they preferred texts to talking on the phone, while 53% said they preferred a voice call to a text message. Another 14% said the contact method they prefer depends on the situation. Heavy text users are much more likely to prefer texting to talking. Some 55% of those who exchange more than 50 messages a day say they would rather get a text than a voice call.

Nowadays communication have become a multistep, multiplatform process. A friend of mine likes to talk on the phone, but only after you have sent an email to propose a chat, during which you actually determine if a call is necessary. By the time voice meets voice, I’m spent. To her credit, she gives out all of her contact information freely. The other friend doesn’t want to talk on the phone because her work requires her to be on the phone all day long, so she prefers text and facebook messages.

With all available forms of communication, every newly formed relationship seems to come with operating instructions such as : “Try my cell first, then shoot me an e-mail. Or circle back to me via Facebook wall if you want, I’m very responsive on there”. On top of all that, contact itself is subject to infinite whimsies like: an e-mail can go to spam. A call can bump up against a voice mailbox not taking new messages. Its owner, managing too many mailboxes, has let it fill.

Just about 15 or so years ago, we used to have only letters and landline phones. Those were the good old days when writing a letter was considered personal, romantic, and wholesome. If Lee had met Jane 15 years ago, all he should have done was to pick up the phone and call Jane to set up a date and Jane would have most probably said “yes”. My educated guess is they would have probably had a peachy time together, too. But now, they first need to clear the cloud of misunderstanding. Things have spun out of proportion in terms of communication between human beings. You hear so much about how instantly reachable we all are, how super-connected, with our smartphones, laptops, and tablets. But the frustrating truth is that we’ve become so accessible we’re often inaccessible. The simple act of getting to any of us has become a tortured and tortuous process. In such situation, one important concept that suffers the most is: communication adequacy. No one knows what’s an adequate form of communication anymore. The know-it-all gods that we are, we start forming our own adequacies which maps to no one else’s.

Looking from the outside as a person who introduced Lee to Jane, I see that they have already put up a thick wall to defend their assertions -because a few days after that infamous interaction between the two, Jane texted me to say [Lee asked me out via text. You should teach him how to ask a lady out] … …, I waited for a couple of hours, and just to make the whole drama more exciting, I replied to Jane on facebook and said: [if you wanted to discuss your drama with Lee, you ‘Should Have Called!’].

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