I fell off the phone-call wagon well before the advent of the emoji—spending lots of time on trains will do that to a certain type of person, one who prefers to not have her business become the entertainment of her fellow commuters. And I stayed off it for a while, with my distaste for the form accelerated by the ever-increasing number of ways for people to communicate: BBSes begat instant messaging, which led to message boards public and not, which eventually resulted in me using sites like Twitter—where those conversations that you felt like shouting into cyberspace’s ever-accomodating void could appear as broken-up one-liners shuffled into a deck filled with links and bon mots and puns and sponsored messages—to lightly chat with people.
Because of the increasingly fleeting (and flitting) nature of chatter, the good old one-on-one phone call now possesses a gravity that it didn’t even 10 years ago, at the tail end of the era where Having A Phone In Your Room was a source of debate between parents and children. (Now such things are commonplace.) Pop songs are still written about the phone call, too; certainly if Carly Rae Jepsen had taken a page from Britney Spears (or Brittany Cleary) and reworked the megahit “Call Me Maybe” so that it referenced Gchat, or Facebook Messenger, or (shudder) Skype, it would have become not only instantly dated, but a lot less flirtatious. Think of reworking the title lyric as “Tweet me, maybe”—the farther-reaching implication is of being another member of someone’s “Following” list, available for dipping in and out of casually, and while confronted by the updates of dozens, if not hundreds, of others.
And I, who so often eschewed the phone, am now glad to lean into those long, meandering conversations that it can inspire, those sorts of chats that would not be punctuated by bathroom breaks or impromptu meetings with managers and where a lip-twisting grin and hastily typed “lol” wouldn’t suffice as an expression of amusement. [...]