Some weeks ago the screen of my phone shattered, and it has become almost unportable. These days it sits right next to my computer, working mostly as a modem, which is easy during quarantine times because I’m latched to the house.

There’s been times when I’ve had to apologize for not responding to an urgent whatsapp message, but I tell people to call me on urgent matters. I can hear from any point in the house, a message I don’t want to hear. This should be common sense, but nowadays people seem to be afraid of making a phone call. I’m phone call shy myself.

Let us examine this issue: why does it seem more difficult to make a phone call than it is to send a message? Could it be because a conversation has to be navigated, while a message gets straight to the point? When I call I say “Oh hi my friend, long time, do I interrupt? There’s this urgent thing that came up and…”

Or could it really be that most things are not that urgent as to merit interruption of all activity. “I’ve been waiting for you 30 minutes, I will leave now. No worries, let’s schedule some other day” vs “I can’t find you, where are you?”.

Intuitively, it seems urgency is what drives immediacy, and a call is the most direct interface to a remote person. When your phone rings, you should know it is important. But marketing calls have ruined everything: when your phone rings you know it is crap.

How is it that we put up with this? An urgency channel between human beings is used to bombard us with offers for credit cards, insurance, and crap in general. After lashing out on the callers I understood I was only harming others and myself, and I’ve settled on saying “Thank you but I don’t have the time for this right now. It’s fortunate that you have a job, and hopefully you will find a better one soon. Good luck and goodbye”.

“That poor soul will be left without a job”, people say, as if that job were a blessing! Surely in times of slavery, slave owners would say “but they won’t know what to do with their freedom!”. Jobs like this are toxic for the human soul, knowingly annoying people in search of sustaining oneself or one’s family.

But then I think: who can solve this? The phone company? The phone manufacturer? The OS of the phone? The government? The market? And the answer seems to be “all of them can, but none will, each for their own reasons”.

And so, we are more likely to read an urgent asynchronous message than we are to pick up a phone call coming from an unknown number.