Voice Mail is Dead
People under a certain age have stopped using voice mail, Jill Colvin reports for NYT.
When it was introduced in the early 1980s, voice mail was hailed as a miracle invention — a boon to office productivity and a godsend to busy households. Hollywood screenwriters incorporated it into plotlines: Distraught heroine comes home, sees blinking red light, listens as desperate suitor begs for another chance to make it all right. Beep! But in an age of instant information gratification, the burden of having to hit the playback button — or worse, dial in to a mailbox and enter a pass code — and sit through “ums” and “ahs” can seem too much to bear.
“Once upon a time, voice mail was useful,” said Yen Cheong, 32, a book publicist in New York who has transitioned almost entirely to e-mail and text messaging. According to her calculation, it takes 7 to 10 steps to check a voice mail message versus zero to 3 for an e-mail. “If you left a message, I have to dial in, dial in my code,” Ms. Cheong said. “Then I mess up and redial. Then once I hear the message, I need the phone number. I try to write it down, and then I have to rewind the message to hear it again,” she added, feigning exhaustion.
I’m reminded of an Eddie Murphy routine from roughly the era when voice mail was introduced in which he made fun of the advent of one-push automatic windows and wondered about people who were so lazy they couldn’t hold down a button for three seconds.
Still, while I remain sufficiently fit and possessed of the mental stamina to withstand the rigors of checking my messages, I join Matt Yglesias in vastly preferring email. I often forget to check my voice mail for days on end and my wife simply won’t check a message, preferring to return any missed calls that show up on her mobile.
Danielle Citron makes an interesting point, however:
Does this trend have meaningful consequences? Document attachments in our networked age have largely replaced faxes just as the telephone largely displaced the telegraph in an earlier time and common thinking has little regret about these developments. But perhaps this trend may have some lasting significance that might be worth considering. The more we leave to text and less to voice, the more messages may get misconstrued. We cannot tell if someone is joking or is upset from text and more often text can send misleading signals about our emotions (unless the stray emoticon provides some help, which is certainly less prevalent in the professional sphere). It also may have an effect on litigation, to the pleasure, or great pain, of many lawyers. The more we write down, the more we tend to raise problems for ourselves, and hence the more that attorneys have to sift through in discovery. To be sure, voice mails are discoverable, but they are less likely to provoke a series of other voice mails where a text or email can lead to a disastrous series of replies, often written in haste and possibly in anger. This may be a true boon to e-Discovery consultants (as my civil procedure students would wisely suggest). And the more that we write down in digital format, the more chance that such information could be hacked, leaked, or sent to an undesirable audience at the expense of privacy and reputation.
That’s especially interesting given that so many of us are using Gmail and other online messaging systems and no longer delete read messages.