I’m old enough to remember the era when no one except for self-styled “masters of the universe” had mobile phones, which were at the time enormous, clunky, expensive, and, of course, annoying.
At least today’s mobile phones are cheaper and sleeker.
So cheap, sleek, and convenient, in fact, that traditional land lines are now extinct in two of every five American households. And this statistic will only become more severe as the years wear on.
My own household has no landline. Why incur the redundant expense?
And yet, it’s important to remember (in a digital detachment sense) the two great advantages that landlines offered over cellphones.
- A landline telephone was just plain better for … talking on the phone. The old-school telephone-that-is-just-a-telephone was designed and improved over many decades for the purpose of making phone conversations a good experience. Your mobile smartphone, on the other hand, is designed primarily as an incredibly powerful, hand-held computing device. The phone component is/was an afterthought.
- You could always just NOT PICK UP a ringing landline, and people would assume you weren’t home. And, you know, call you back later without sending an accompanying text or, worse, assuming you were ignoring them because you are a selfish person who doesn’t like them. Or if you were home and had a landline, you could take it off the hook and callers receiving a busy signal would know you were tied up on the other line.
Your cellphone, provided it is turned on, provides no such “plausible deniability” for screening your calls. If the call rings through, your friends, or employer, or your bill collector can rightly assume you’re screening calls. They can follow up with text messages. They can “set expectations” by demanding you keep your mobile close by and on.
Keeping your mobile phone on airplane mode, or, better yet, off, can be a nice compromise. Incoming calls will go to voicemail after one ring, and your callers can plausibly assume your battery is dead or you are in a no-coverage area.
I like this tactic both for *screening calls* and for limiting the distractions and temptations of my phone.
Yes, I *screen calls.* There is no law demanding you pick up and answer every call that comes through.
On the other hand, to cultivate detachment, I’ll also switch it up once or twice a month and make it a policy to pick up every cell phone call — just to see what it feels like and give myself a mental jolt. I find this an exhausting but useful exercise, helpful for correcting an over-descent into introversion.
Do you still have a landline? What do you think about plausible deniability (in the smartphone era) for not picking up the phone? Leave a comment and let me know…