Saturday, August 02, 2008

This Could Be Known as "Call Not Waiting"

Hot on the heels of yesterday's story about people ditching their land-line phones in record numbers comes this NY Times profile of a company called Slydial, which allows a caller to go directly to someone's voicemail without having to talk to them live; it shows up on that person's phone as a missed call:
When Alexis Gorman, 26, wanted to tell a man she had been dating that the courtship was over, she felt sending a Dear John text message was too impersonal. But she worried that if she called the man, she would face an awkward conversation or a confrontation.

So she found a middle ground. She broke it off in a voice mail message, using new technology that allowed her to jump directly to the suitor’s voice mail, without ever having to talk to the man — or risk his actually answering the phone.

The technology, called Slydial, lets callers dial a mobile phone but avoid an unwanted conversation — or unwanted intimacy — on the other end. The incoming call goes undetected by the recipient, who simply receives the traditional blinking light or ping that indicates that a voice mail message has been received.
That's clever--a "Dear John" voicemail! And Gorman made a good point: Why risk an awkward conversation with a person with whom she'd only gone out a few times?

Here's another crafty use of the technology:
[Manny Manakas of New York] used it to call in sick to work — without facing follow-up questions from his boss.

“I don’t want 50 questions,” Mr. Mamakas said. “I just say, ‘I won’t be coming in; I’m under the weather.’ By the time he hears voice mail, it’s already noon.”

He acknowledges that the technology encourages a perhaps not-so-valiant character trait.

“It does make you more cowardly,” he said.
But is that cowardly, or just being efficient with one's time? Someone quoted in the article notes that, with modern technology, we can easily be tethered to the outside world 24/7 if we're not careful. This seems like as good of a "temporary opt-out" solution as any. IBecause of my teaching schedule, I rarely do business by phone to begin with, especially in the summer when the computer is right beside me and I can fire off a quick email or two between lessons. If I actually needed to reach someone by phone, having a way to guarantee that I could leave a quick voicemail might come in very handy.)

Althouse links to the story and makes a few good points in response to the "cowardly" idea:
What about all the positive reasons for not wanting to make someone's phone ring? They might be sleeping, with someone, or concentrating on work. I often hesitate to make phone calls, not for selfish reasons, but out of consideration for others. You have no idea what they are doing. In fact, why did it ever become acceptable to cause a bell to ring that required somebody to drop what they are doing and talk to somebody who unilaterally decided it was time to talk? It had to have been an adjustment to phone technology as it was. If it is no longer necessary to behave that way, why is it still thought to be polite? At the very least, calling specifically to leave a voice message should be regarded as fine etiquette. Stigmatizing it as solipsistic and cowardly is ridiculous.
I totally agree, and I posted a portion of my little call-waiting rant from yesterday in the comments to Althouse's post.

So what do you think--is this cowardly or efficient? And, knowing that it's free (save for having to listen to a few ads to access it), would you use a service like this?

No comments: