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Hello, goodbye?

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It is interesting to see how the telephone, and now, its equivalent as an app on our smartphones, has become one of the least used devices in our very modern and hyperconnected lives, considering that it is the OG when it comes to modern communication and connectivity.

A couple of years ago, nobody would bother to answer the landline at the house when it rings, probably because everyone knows they can be contacted on their own phone. I had to lecture my kids on that as it was the obligation of the person closest to the landline to pick it up and then greet the caller properly, because the only people who call landlines are those who know the family intimately enough to know the landline number.

Now the situation has leveled up and gotten even worse, as people aren’t even answering their mobile phones when it rings and the number is not in their phonebook. If you come to think of it, the only reason people answer unrecognized numbers these days is when they are expecting an online shopping delivery and the person calling could be the rider trying to figure out the delivery address.

One reason why people don’t answer unknown numbers could be the social anxiety of having to deal with strangers, which is quite understandable during this era when people somehow feel the need to be able to fully investigate someone’s social media footprint before allowing them into their circle of friends, where once you are in, everything is ironically shared.

Another reason is the proliferation of scammers and telemarketers who somehow have gotten our numbers from either the many data breaches or when our data privacy is violated by companies that gather our personal details in different forms whose contents are apparently being sold, stolen, or given away.

So, when our phones ring and an unknown number is on the other end of the line, and we know from recent experience that there is a very big chance a scammer or a telemarketer who will try to get access to our money in one way or another is on the other end, we respond by clamming up and refusing to answer that non-secure mode of communication, preferring to communicate through other more secure means, where we really know who we are talking with. These more secure modes of communication where we can curate our contact lists are the various messaging and calling apps on our phones like Messenger, Viber, WhatsApp, Telegram, etc., and that is why they have taken over the relatively low-tech telephone system.

Back in the day, when our phones would ring, whether it be the landline or mobile, we would always answer immediately because it is usually important and someone we know is on the other end.

Nowadays, people who call without texting first are either boomers, delivery riders, scammers, or telemarketers. In other words, what was perfectly normal social behavior a few decades ago is now generally considered rude, which shows how the steady march of technology can change how society works. The few exceptions for this present rule of thumb when communicating via “phone” are our really close friends and loved ones (aka our favorites) who have earned the right to call anytime.

After having answered a few dubious calls, I have also learned my lesson and now look at my phone with suspicion when an unknown number makes it ring. If I am expecting a delivery, I’d probably answer it.

However, I have also added another layer of protection when deciding to take the risk and answering a call. Since societal norms have already been upended, I no longer greet the caller with the traditional “hello,” but instead, I wait for them to make the first move.

The reason for this is if they know me, they will say my name, and if they have business with me, then they should state their business. However, if they don’t know my name or don’t have an urgent matter to attend to, then it is an instant red flag, meaning the caller could be a scammer or an unwanted telemarketer, and that is when I have also learned that it is ok to tell that their call is not welcome.

For those callers that are especially insistent or aggressive, my favorite shut down tactic is to ask them where they got my number because whoever gave it to them violated my data privacy rights. But usually, a firm “no” is enough to get these people off our backs, so if you come to think of it, we shouldn’t be afraid to answer our phones when it rings.

While we are truly spoiled with choices when it comes to communication these days, the telephone should still be a viable option because of its simplicity and reliability. Continuing to use it will help keep it relevant despite all the other modern and sexier choices currently available. Just because it’s been misused and abused, we shouldn’t give up on it yet.*

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