I never ever phone someone for a chat any more. Is that weird? That’s probably deeply weird. It’s possible that I’ve turned into the Sandra Bullock character from The Net, if anyone else even remembers that film. She hid away in her room and even ordered her pizza online, so she didn’t have to talk to people.
I order my pizza online too, but it’s a nice friendly website and I’m not sitting alone in a room lit only by computer screens when I do it, so I think that part’s okay. Also, I go out and pick up the pizza, so I do interact with the people at the pizza place.
But I don’t ring anyone up just to talk to them; except my parents, because they’re not so au fait with the internet and I do admit that there’s a certain level of intimacy that hearing someone’s voice achieves that seeing their words appear on a screen doesn’t. And my husband, I ring him up at work, but not so much for chats as for those “Please buy milk/beer/wine/biscuits” conversations that have to happen to prevent me needing to make a last minute dash to the shops with two children in the worst part of the day.
I could just ask him by e-mail or chat. Sometimes I do. But I don’t avoid ringing him up.
I do avoid ringing other people up. I’m okay with business calls, like scheduling a dentist’s appointment or something. I’ll put it off for a few days, but then I’ll just do it. But the idea of ringing a friend, randomly, at any time of day, seems uncivilized now. It feels very self-centred of me to assume that they want to talk to me, and that they can just drop everything and do that, whenever I choose to ring them. And if I leave a message and they ring me back, then they’re doing the same to me, and we could play phone tag for ever. So much more considerate to send an e-mail that they can read and respond to whenever it’s convenient for them. Also, then I don’t have to ring them.
My father never liked being at the beck and call of the telephone. This seemed to me a ridiculously old-fashioned objection back in the day – sure, wouldn’t you always be only delighted to chat to someone if they rang up wanting to talk to you. I wasn’t one of those teenagers who was always hogging the line, but I did ring friends for chats back then. Apparently since then, I’ve come full circle back to my dad’s point-of-view for a more modern reason – I prefer the convenience of the Internet for my interactions with friends.
Maybe it was because I moved to America that I stopped making phone calls. I called my parents, but I had nobody else to call, really. I could keep in touch with Irish friends by e-mail. With the time difference, it made more sense. Those who weren’t into e-mail, well, our friendships languished, sometimes. Some of them were easily picked up every time we went home; some weren’t. I didn’t have new American friends to call on the phone yet. I didn’t need to ring my boyfriend every night because I lived with him now. His friends and their girlfriends became my friends, but I didn’t ring them and they didn’t ring me. Then we moved, then we moved again. We had a baby. Somebody said we should join Facebook because that was how people kept in touch these days. I joined Facebook.
It was a bit of a momentous thing, now I think about it. I have more friends now than I ever did before, if by friends you mean anything from “people I have encountered on the Internet and seem cool” to “bloke I am married to”. I can hide the depths of my weirdness behind my quick quips on Facebook and nobody will ever know.
But if you’re my friend, don’t be offended if I never ring you for a chat, okay? I’m just bad that way.