For thousands of years, humans have kept in touch by meeting up. Whether in an ancient cave or at a hipster café, humans have always craved company. We crave the real thing — hearing, seeing and hugging our fellow humans. Even in pandemic times, when we’re forced to quarantine, that need hasn’t gone away.
But there’s another human impulse at work — the craving for ease and convenience.
So, unable to meet up and forced to quarantine, many of us have settled for the extreme convenience of texting. Texting is the modern workhorse of staying in touch. It’s easy and instant. You text and move on. If hanging out with a friend at a café is at one end of the spectrum, the instant text is at the other end. You can’t see me, hear me or hug me — but at least you can see the few words I have chosen for you.
I’d like to suggest greater use of the middle ground — the good old phone call. I don’t mean Zoom or Skype or Facetime, where you can see the other person. I mean the simple call where you can hear a person’s voice.
I’ve noticed that during the quarantine, my phone calls have been longer and deeper. Knowing that we can’t meet in person, I will put in more effort at conversation. I’m learning how to stay quiet and not interrupt (I’m on a learning curve).
I still text way too much because it’s so much easier. But I never regret taking the time for phone calls. Maybe that’s because I like to hear human voices. The phone call is the instrument that best honors the human voice. Each voice is different — a singular expression of one’s humanity.
It’s true that there’s a modern discomfort with the phone call; it’s more of a commitment. When we’re so used to the speed and ease of digital, phone calls can be socially awkward.
But let’s not lose sight of the power of a human voice. This power can work both ways — causing anguish or bringing comfort. With the epidemic of loneliness in 2020, we can put the comforting power of our voices to work. There must be thousands of elderly people right now stuck in quarantine, isolated and lonely. A simple phone call from a friend or relative must warm their hearts. Many of us already do it.
With the epidemic of loneliness in 2020, we can put the comforting power of our voices to work.
When we talk about repairing the world, we often talk about big and important things like climate change, social justice and so on. But there are also the little things that can help repair someone’s day. The phone call is one of them.
Through the sound of our voice, we can keep in touch by touching people’s hearts.