HELLO? (with no apologies to Adele)

The telephone is dead.

Not so much the cell/smartphone, since our fingers twitch to text and tweet and reply-all email.

But the Alexander Graham Bell invention is moribund (especially according to statistics from Nielsen, claiming that we’re moving to a landline-less and voicemail-less society).

All of which we mourn.  To us, it signals an increasingly isolated population, at home and at work.  [Though for the life of us, we can’t figure out who’s talking to whom in our commutes.] 

It shows our determined individualism:  “Hey, we’re communicating on our own terms and in our own timeframe.”

And it points to an ever-decreasing competency in being willing to talk and understanding how to hold a conversation.

According to Miss Manners, phone calls are rude, disruptive, and awkward.  They interrupt our workflow, our home lives, and generally create havoc for those around us.  In fact, it’s become de rigueur to ask, in an email, if it’s okay to call.

Much of that could be due to the constant ‘dialing for dollars’ from robocalls or from groups we’d just as soon not hear from.  And much of that could be a lack of energy to speak with those who want to talk with us; after all, it takes a lot of energy to text and message and scroll through Facebook and LinkedIn and Instagram and Pinterest and other social media.

Some say back-and-forth messaging is simply the new century’s conversation. 

We’d hang up on that.


Conference calls get our goats.

First, the dogs barking.  Vacuuming in the next room.  Or other distractables, like e-appliances, overloud conversations, random paper shuffling, texting.

Second come the introductions.  But only once.  [It’s hard to voice-ID during a business conversation if you’ve heard the name and the voice just one time.]

Third:  The sidebars, the jokes (when you’re not there), the awkward gaps.

Got the [silent] picture?  There seems to be a real need for a uniform manifesto for conference calls, with everyone agreeing and signing up, and with rules posted online and in our faces.

Sure, we’ve all been guilty, at one time or another, of multitasking, checking emails or smartphones when we think no one’s watching.  Still, since a meeting is a meeting is a meeting, we need to get things done.

Here are our demands:

  • Appoint a moderator who’s sensitive enough to tease people out of their shells and strong enough to just say no to monopolizers.
  • Stick to the topic – and to the time.  We all have other things to do.
  • Start right away.  And that doesn’t mean 11 on the dot; it means 10:57 am.
  • Pay attention.  Though email use can’t be monitored, it’s not hard to tell when folks are following the agenda.  Or not.
  • Test the technology … ahead of time.  Not on our watches.

Researchers state that business’ spend on conference calls will grow 9.6 percent yearly through 2017, with 65 percent of those being audio.  Being active and good listeners (and participants) simply equates to good corporate ­citizenship … and good communications.


With Valentine’s Day in the recent past, we were musing about expressions of like and love in these e-days.  If not before.

Few realize that, even before Internet pioneer Tim Berners-Lee was born, Morse Code and Puck magazine and satirist Ambrose Bierce all talked about love and kisses and vertical emoticons and snigger points.  Though a Carnegie Mellon University student might have proposed the idea in the 1980s, today, emoticons – and their Japanese smartphone cousins, emoji – have become world-wide substitutes for saying how we feel, digitally.   Teens we know use these pictographs extensively in texts (in fact, often without words).  And yes, we’ll admit a guilty pleasure in occasionally using a smiley or frowny or LOL symbol when we’re e-talking with good friends and colleagues.

Think with us, though.  How frequently do these symbols truly portray what we’re up to emotionally, in the moment?  Is it easy to show our concerns or fears within our smartphones or Outlook or Lotus Notes?  Have your colleagues misunderstood your intent within the message’s content?  And if so, how long did it take you to explain what you meant?

That’s been the task lately of USC’s Annenberg Innovation Lab, charged with interpreting political sentiments of Twitter feeds.  The most difficult analysis, says a spokesperson, is determining sarcasm.  The computer does so in a unique combination featuring human and data-mining services, but not always successfully.

Remedies run from adopting new pictographs (yet another visual to remember!) to avoiding the sentiment altogether.  One reason to discontinue these pictures:  Researchers have discovered that millennials and younger tweeters use emoticons sarcastically as well as to show a lack of feeling altogether.

No surprise:  But why don’t we, as the ultimate communication and marketing professionals, set the new standard?  Like picking up the phone.  And meeting face to face.