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Just Call (Or Text) Me — Enough With Voice Messages!

Voice messages are unilateral and time-consuming: this is bad communication innovation.

You've got an annoying message
You've got an annoying message
Julian Erbersdobler

-OpEd-

Voice messages are like unannounced visits. You know they are. They come out of nowhere and rob you of a time you'd like to spend doing something else rather than holding your phone horizontally to your ear. In addition to WhatsApp and Facebook, the function has also recently become available on Instagram. Does it really have to be that way?


A long, long time ago, there was cave art. The world, at the time, was still fine. Then someone drew a bison. Someone else saw it and added his contribution. At some point, the wall was full of bison and a new cave had to be found. Communication has always had its limits.

Much later came text messages. There too, you had to work hard to condense content. I love you? Way too long! Instead, you'd finish your message with ILY. In Germany, the real pros even used to shorten the slender word und ("and"), reducing it to a mere "u." But that's exactly where the magic of the early SMS lay — you had to think about what you actually wanted to write and then check again to see if it couldn't be even shorter.

Voice messages consume time.

It was a fight for every space, every comma, every point. Sometimes that'd hurt because you had to mutilate your own message. But, in the end, you were proud of what you'd created. An SMS always meant work: 160 characters weren't much, but they were mostly enough. At that time there was no space for nonsense, no smileys with halos and no vomiting unicorns.

There was only the text, letter after letter. If that wasn't enough, you could draw a smiley face using a colon, a hyphen, and a right parenthesis. And only in case of a real emergency (a severe burst of spring fever in winter, for example) did you send two SMS. Thus paying twice the price. But it was worth it, a small investment of sorts.

Instagram rolling out its voice messaging function — Source: Instagram

It's different with voice messages. The sender presses the microphone symbol and starts babbling, telling you about work, their sister's boyfriend, the roommate's dog. And it can take quite some time. And the person on the receiving end has to listen to it all. Ideally with a pen in hand ready to avoid missing out on the important details. Most of the work is done by the receiver, not the sender.

It doesn't matter whether it's a monologue or just two sentences. Voice messages are time-consuming. There is no maximum length. And also no way to interrupt when the sender tells you which novel they will put under their mother-in-law's Christmas tree if they can't find the perfume they'd rather give her instead. How can you answer such a voice message? With a thumbs up? Never! That'd be taken as an invitation for the next recording.

But seriously: Why don't people call each other anymore? You know, like before, when one person would say something and the other could react. Dialogue! Two people, two voices, the old-school classic. If that's too boring for you, you can look for your old Nokia 3310 again. At least the battery lasts up to a week, so you'll have enough time to find the right 160 characters. You can even end it with a smiley.

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