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The perils of being someone who hates talking on the phone

Written by
Carla Sosenko

I hate talking on the phone.

If a friend—even one I love dearly, one I would happily spend an entire day with—suggests a phone call, I quietly die inside. "Why???" I think, "when we could just text all night, or send each other long-form emails for hours?"

I can’t tell you why I hate talking on the phone, but I can tell you that I didn’t always. In middle school, I’d spend all night with the thing practically attached to my head. By high school I had my own phone number and answering machine. (This was in the 1700s, when I was a teenager.) At some point, though, the idea of talking on the phone started to fill me with anxiety.

I’ll grant you, it’s the anticipation that’s the worst. And there's almost always anticipation. Because I'm a notorious phone hater, my friends make a point to schedule phone time with me. As soon as they do, I am overcome with dread. Or, maybe I'll tell a phonie friend that I'm going to call him. I'll either buck up the courage to actually do it or flake. I try not to do the latter, but it happens—that's how much I hate it. My dislike of the phone is almost pathological. (And for the record, being a person who my friends feel like they have to schedule phone time with doesn't make me feel great.)

Once I’m on the phone, though, those times that my friends do get through or I prove that I'm not the WORST FRIEND EVER, I realize that I’m happy to be talking to that person. But I’ll admit, mostly I’m just thinking about when I can stop talking to that person. Even when I love them. Even when they’re my closest people. I’ll pace. I’ll think about how much better life was in my pre-phone days, and how I can't wait to get back there. 

I’m lucky, because most of my friends are phone avoiders, too. (Or at least, they avoid the phone with me, because THEY ARE THE FUCKING BEST.) But occasionally it’s unavoidable. I probably talk on the phone with my mom more than anyone else, though I do love her emails and texts. (She employs an adorable reverse-caps style that makes her messages as challenging as e.e. cummings poems. You really have to work to understand them, which I appreciate. Can’t be going soft over here!) But I do have a handful of friends who, while they don’t barrage me with constant calls (and yes, I realize what a fortunate problem it is to have friends who—GOD FORBID—want to talk to me), they do hit me up occasionally when they find it particularly important. If we’re trying to plan something, let’s say, and they don’t feel like going back and forth.

“Can we just hop on the phone for a quick sec?” is a common refrain. “It’ll just be so much easier.” And my thought is always, Easier for you. Because for me, what would actually be easier would be sending back-and-forth missives over Gmail like we’re the fucking Vicomte de Valmont and Marquise de Merteuil. (That’s a Dangerous Liaisons reference. They wrote a lot of letters, is what I'm saying.)

So my question is…why do phone lovers always have the right of way? Why are phone haters always the bad guys?

Here’s what I think has happened: Personal emails have become a vestigial form of communication. Work emails, I’ve got them for days. And newsletters, concert announcements and sale alerts? My in-box is lousy with them. But actual personal emails? My Gmail account looks the way my Hotmail account looked right after I got a Gmail account. We all spend most of our time texting, right? But now, when somebody has something important or longwinded to talk about, instead of going to the slightly more involved email, they go right for the phone. THIS IS A MISSTEP, PEOPLE! You are skipping an obvious phase here! Look, I know email feels like a big commitment. And yes, you probably associate it with you job, and lord knows on your off time you don’t want to think about your job. But for the love of god, do not pick up the phone! Why would you pick up the phone?!? It takes so much more attention to stay engaged on the phone! Can we stop this? CAN WE BOUND TOGETHER AND STOP THIS??? Justin Timberlake brought sexy back—I believe we can bring email back. (That was a relevant reference, right?)

There was a time when I got to know people over email, new love interests in particular. In fact, it’s how I decided if I liked someone. If a guy sent me a long email that let me see his wit, and I got to send one back that showed mine, happy days. But holy hell, if we’d been depending on the phone, I would have been doomed! Because you know what that guy would have heard? Awkward, tortured conversation and a TV show in the background that I was paying more attention to. (And it'd likely be a Real Housewives of Fill-in-the-Blank Zip Code, so it's not like he would have been impressed.)

And those email days were fun. That feeling of anticipation, waiting for this man I was starting to like to email me—it was like a little textual present. (I almost made a “textual healing” joke right there, you guys. Aren’t you glad I didn’t?) Now that’s gone. It’s text or the phone. Or if you’re like me, text or nothing. (Fun little side note, I literally JUST THIS SECOND swiped left on a guy because he listed talking on the phone as one of his interests.) (And yes, I did that while writing this blog. I GET DISTRACTED EASILY. Haven’t you been reading my blog???)

Anyway. Stay strong, anti-phoners. In the meantime, call me, maybe. (Hahahahahaha, JK, definitely don’t.)

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