Phone Calls Following Same Evolution as Mail
By Eric Lin, Wed Apr 28 22:45:00 GMT 2004

Just as email changed the etiquette for written correspondence, mobile phones are changing how we hold conversations- on the phone and face to face.


A columnist for the Daytona Beach News Journal (link thanks to Textually), makes some astute observations about how people approach each other on the phone. Thanks to mobile phones, and even the commoditization of landlines in places like the US, we now make calls believing we are contacting a person, not a household or business. Since nearly every mobile phone has caller ID, we also make our calls believing that the person on the is aware of who we are since they can see the incoming number. Since we believe we are calling a specific person and we believe they know who is calling, we rarely bother with introductions or pleasantries anymore.

For the author this has led to some interesting mix-ups when people call his home line believing that they've reached him but instead have reached his son and vice-versa. As recently as a decade ago callers would ask whom they were speaking to, ending any confusion at mistaken identity. Since formalities like that are often skipped now, the wrong person is often bombarded by inappropriate information instead of just pleasantries.

This change to a let's get down to business etiquette was seen in email in the early 90s. If we start to treat phone calls like email, will we treat other people's phone conversations like spam?

Researchers at the University of York have discovered a reason why overheard mobile phone conversations bug us so much- because we only hear one side. They conducted a study of people talking at various volumes on the phone as well as to other people and found that no matter what the volume, bystanders found phone conversations more annoying. The researchers determined that hearing only one side of a conversation compels us to pay more attention, and thus creates a more noticeable annoyance.