The Telephone

I remember when the telephone was a useful and appreciated device. The digital revolution, one of humanity’s most unfortunate developments, has turned the telephone into a nuisance and a threat.

The telephone is such a nuisance that most people no longer answer when it rings or even bother to set up the feature to record phone messages. The telephone is such a nuisance that many people do not even use it for calls. Instead, they text, and they only answer texts.

Ninety-five percent of the calls I get are scams, tele-marketing and robo-marketing calls. The telephone is a constant disruption. I don’t answer and rely on the answering machine.

No one I call answers either. Not even businesses. Recently I telephoned the diagnostic center, where tests are done as part of my annual checkup, to confirm the appointment. A long recording in two languages explained everything I had no need to know, but it was impossible to communicate with any live person at the diagnostic center. I could go online, get an apt, create a portal and establish a communication connection. In other words, what the telephone formerly dealt with in 30 seconds now took an hour or two just to set up a method of asking the question. The robot on the other end didn’t say how long I would wait for a reply.

Everyone must have noticed by now that whether you call your bank, credit card company or utility company, reaching a live person is the most difficult and most frustrating task of your day. Everyone has noticed that the recorded message tells you that “we are experiencing an unusual call volume at this time. Your wait time is one hour and 45 minutes. Stay on the line or leave a callback number and we will call you in approximately one hour 45 minutes.”

I can remember when if you called bank, utility, or credit card company, the call was answered by the third ring and the person you reached could resolve whatever problem or question you had.

The digital revolution made it possible for companies to impose costs of doing business on their customers. It is your time that is used up listening to recorded messages of no value to you and awaiting a callback. Often the callback person isn’t trained to handle your question, and you go through the process again.

The digital revolution has turned the telephone into a device that governments and corporations use to spy on you. Privacy is a thing of the past. It is unknown today, and the word itself will probably disappear from the vocabulary. Telephones today are used as computers to constantly surf the Internet. Your visits are recorded and your revealed interests are sold to marketers and, if suspicious, authorities are alerted. Whatever people are doing, walking on the beach, sitting in a bar, eating in a restaurant, driving a car, working on a job, or attending a meeting, the telephone is ubiquitous as the thumb scrolls the page. But its original use–to communicate with another human–is passé.

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