Guess what: There’s no reason to talk on your phone anymore, unless you’re at home or in one of a few select emergency exceptions. It’s true. Talking on your phone isn’t only obsolete, it’s extremely annoying. So let’s kick the habit together, forever.
There’s Just No Point
The smartphone imbues us with so many ways to say something about the world we couldn’t literally say. Instantly and articulately. No rambling list of street names will ever be as good as a map, no description of that gelato’s colour as precise as a photo. Or maybe a poetic text. The impossibly small computer is a poet and an artist and a cinematographer that can share your life with anyone you want. See a beautiful flower? Instagram it. Late for lunch? Fire off a quick text. Important email that someone needs to see ASAP? Forward it, and then text about it. And then Instagram a photo of your face looking urgent. Need food? Use your Seamless app, or any other number of extremely efficient ways to direct food into your atrophied gullet. Oh no — I’m lost! I’d better call Ji — oh, wait, no, I have a map of literally the entire world on my phone that can guide me anywhere.
We seduce via text, we break up via text, we collaborate via email, we joke via tweet, we share adorable baby moments via video — the smartphone has given us pearly gloves of infinite dexterity, grace and brevity — we can do nearly everything quickly and cleanly. And silently.
The smartphone does almost all of it for you, and does it better. You don’t need your voice like you used to.
Nobody Wants To Hear You. Nobody. At All.
We’re extremely busy people. With everyone both hyper-busy and hyper-connected (blech, that term), the capacity for endless jabber is wider than ever before. In trains, restaurants, sidewalks, parks, bars, cafes, hospitals — everyone is talking. Very, very few of them need to be talking.
And they oughtn’t be. Why? Because it wrecks what little space we have left for genuine human contact. We love to talk to our pals and friends in person — you know, friendship. The brain is accustomed to hearing conversation. But the stilted, one-way scraps heaped upon us when you carry on in public? It’s a signal jammer, distracting and derailing the real interactions we’re trying to have. Maps and apps and texting can take care of so much of the mundane and junk talk we used to have to perform with our skulls, filtering out needless sounds and making room for the good stuff. The sweet, funny, personal bits. Those are fine! But if you want to indulge..?
Keep It Quiet — Or Behind Closed Doors
Like drugs, vicious sexual deviance and listening to Tyga, nobody has any reason to care about what questionable things you do in private. Your life is your life. And as long as it stays entirely your life, not overlapping even the slightest bit upon the rest, society shrugs away. Go for it. Do you want to have a 45 minute conversation about how Ben has been such a dick lately? Yes! Do it! Talking itself is no sin, but the nature of phonetalk is inherently disruptive when the whole crowd is doing it together. We talk over each other, we plug our ears, we look for a more quiet place in vain. Instead of amplifying the noise, go with silent smartphone subtlety, or go to the place where you’re allowed to do whatever the hell you want.
The home is a special place and will continue to be, a place where you can pour out anything you want to anyone you want. This means three hour phone calls at dawn, this means yelling, this means crying — it means whatever you want. And while you’re doing it, nobody’s ears and brains are stepped on, no attention span snapped. The home is the new phone booth.
User Manual is Gizmodo’s guide to etiquette. It appears as if by magic every Saturday.
Illustration by Alex Cannon.