the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Have you Heard about Hugo and Kim?!

My track record of getting into useless internet arguments this week exploded today when I was confronted with this sad link from the New York Times, via Kyran‘s Facebook page, which stated that people have stopped using the telephone.

In the last five years, full-fledged adults have seemingly given up the telephone — land line, mobile, voice mail and all. According to Nielsen Media, even on cellphones, voice spending has been trending downward, with text spending expected to surpass it within three years.

OK, fine. We all know the New York Times likes to publish false “controversial” facts just to get you to pay for their subscription. But surely my old blogging pal, Kyran, a fun-loving writer who appreciates old traditions, loves to chat on the phone with her friends and colleagues.

But then I saw her comment on the subject–

Ding-dong, the social phone call is dead. Count me among those who won’t miss it. My mother and sister are about the only people I want to visit with on the telephone.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, most of her friends AGREED with her. I immediately re-posted this on my Facebook page, hoping that my own friends still enjoyed a good one-on-one phone chat. After all, many of my Facebook friends are pals from the old days.

Remember, friends, when we used to talk on the phone for HOURS about our algebra homework? Or about the cute girls in the junior class? Or whether a “time warp” could really exist? Or whether the Mets can win a game this year?  Hey, Barry, remember the time we spend three hours on the phone, watching the same Mets game in our own homes at the same time?

Does anyone really think social media does a better job in creating real communication between individuals?

Would Bye, Bye Birdie really be BETTER using social media, rather than the brilliant invention of Alexander Graham Bell?


  1. Heather

    Admittedly, I don’t often sing whilst on the phone – but with a spouse stationed 1,700 miles away and a best friend over three hours away – I talk on my phone quite a bit. An average of 7,000 minutes a month.

    Sure, we text in between, on rare occasions when the internet is working in both locations we’ll video chat, but these are calls I’ll always take. The only time I don’t answer my phone, aside from being someplace I can’t (work, movie theatre, etc) is when it’s a number I don’t recognize.

    Now voicemail? Yeah, I’d rather the caller hang up and send me a text to let me know the message – same situations – If I’m in a meeting and can’t answer the phone call, then I certainly can’t check the voice mail, but I can glance at a text and see what is needed and call back after.

  2. Erika

    i text a fair amount but i still have long landline talks with my friends & parents. i guess im ‘vintage’ lol

  3. Genevieve

    My mom called me recently. We talk on the phone about 4 times a day. She was freaking out about some study recently done that showed that teenagers nowadays cannot actually hold conversations with one another face to face or via telephone. I guess the ebb and flow of the conversation freaked them out. It’s not status updatey and there are no character limits. You can’t use an emoticon. You have to actually listen to the tone of people’s voices. And they just couldn’t. In the face of this vast wide unknown, our children ran with fright. Or boredom. Or whatever it was.

    I told my mom I don’t believe the study.

    Hook me up with a phone call any day. I’ll talk about nothing into the wee small hours of the night.

  4. V-Grrrl @ Compost Studios

    I love that you call me and we can chat and I can hear you and NYC through the phone.

  5. Jack

    I still use the phone. Some things are better said than written.

  6. Tracie

    I love Bye Bye Birdie!

    Also, Pillow Talk, it would not be the same with social media instead of a telephone.

    I’m still a phone person. A short text every once in a while is fine, but if I’m going to have a conversation with someone, I like to hear their voice.

  7. goinglikesixty

    Nicely done! I love what you did for images. Very clever.
    I guess since everybody is tethered to smart phones the video chat will never get traction. Perhaps the iPad front facing camera will change that? Wonder if/when the iPhone will get front facing camera?

    So: your question: Is texting social media? Not really. Twitter et al is not conversational. It’s just blathering into the troposphere. So yes, texting will replace voice, but social media, no. Well maybe. Can you hold, please?

  8. flutter

    does Skype count?

  9. Kristen

    Oh, man. I love the social media rendition of Bye-Bye Birdie.

    I barely use the phone anymore, but for me it is more of a life-stage thing because I am like a magnet to my four loud children whenever I get on it. But I would like to thing I can return to it once they are bigger. I agree with you, social media just isn’t the same.

  10. The Honourable Husband

    And Ann margaret didn’t win an Oscar. She was robbed!

  11. beta dad

    I have to admit that I pretty much hate talking on the phone these days. It’s too much of a commitment. The only person I have real phone conversations with regularly is my mom. They average about 40 minutes, and I get a lot of housecleaning done while talking to her. I have friends that I only email, friends that I mostly text with, and facebook friends. My phone-talky friends and I don’t communicate much. And the one guy who likes to write letters–well, we catch up with one another every couple of years. Of course, I like to talk to the faces of most of my friends when I can.

  12. Marinka

    What’s Bye Bye Birdie?

  13. Maggie, dammit

    Hey, that’s my text! Goofball.

    I, for one, am happy to see the phone dying out. I prefer either face to face contact, or a keyboard. The phone makes me nervous. Am weird. Or maybe not, it would seem.

    Back to the good fight….

  14. Danny

    I almost never talk on the phone except to family members. But I don’t text either–on my pathetic phone it would take about 20 minutes to compose a sentence. I prefer face-to-face communication or email or “social media” (but not Twitter). I used to sit on the phone for hours on end but I have absolutely no desire anymore. Oh, and I never chat online, I can’t handle that either. Am I a hermit?

    Oh, “Bye-Bye, Birdie”–the best, as is your phoneless re-imagining of “The Telephone Hour!” I was in love with both Kim and Ursula. You know, that movie was supposed to be a big starring vehicle for Janet Leigh playing Rosie but Ann-Margret was so hot they kept expanding her role. As Maureen Stapleton (who played Dick Van Dyke’s mother) famously said at the wrap party for the film: “I guess I’m the only person in this room who doesn’t want to fuck Ann-Margret!”

    • Neil

      Danny, my god, what a great line. Where did you read that?

  15. Kara

    Love the post! I have 2 kids – 19 & 21 (both as young teens preferred MNS to the telephone when conversing with their friends). As they are both away at university, I telephone them weekly, but it’s always a one-way conversation – lots of chatter on my end with a lot of dead silence on theirs. They both have deplorable phone skills and if given a choice, would rather text than talk. I’ve learned our best long-distance conversations are when we’re using instant messaging – then the talk is fluid & lively. I’m afraid the NYT is right this time.

  16. Stacey

    I hate talking on the phone. Although I’d take a face to face conversation over social media any day.

  17. Clearwater

    Someday ears will go the way of the dinosaur.

  18. teahouseblossom

    Remember how they used to have those communal phones? The phone would ring twice, and that would be your ring. One long ring would be your neighbor.

    And before that, you just picked up the phone and asked Margie or Thelma or Betty to connect you.

  19. Neil

    My mother said she used to share the telephone line with her next door neighbor. You would pick up the receiver, hear them talking, and have to wait until they were done.

  20. GrandeMocha

    I talk to my mom & husband on the phone because they don’t text. Everybody else is text, twitter, or fb.

  21. thatgirlblogs

    I want to marry this post.

  22. Always Home and Uncool

    I love when you take Old School, New School and vice versa.

  23. Scratch the Hostile Fay

    I always hated using the phone. I admit, I rarely use it nowadays. In fact, the only reason I *have* a landline is because we’re out in the boonies, and if you want internet, it’s either via satelite (which is way too much and you’d have to cut down trees), or by dial-up. Yeah, it’s slow.


  24. Alex@LateEnough

    Weird. I posted today about how I don’t even have my phone option visible on my iPhone. But I also have a burrito app listed under ‘social life’ so I *might* be the cause of my lack of phone calls.

  25. Matilda George

    Funny. I was in Bye Bye Birdie as one of the telephone singing girls back in 1981. And that was one of my lines…. “Have you heard about Hugo and Kim?”

    I’m one of those now who have dropped off the face of the earth and don’t call. I have a cell phone. It’s very expensive too and I’m stuck in Verizon’s contract till July 2011. Then I’m bailing out!!!! I now only use my phone to text or take photos. On a rare occasion I may use it to quickly call my mom who now only lives 10 miles away. But we can email each other now if we need something. And that’s how I like it.

  26. Deer Baby

    Hate the phone – I hate not knowing who it is on the other end before I pick up. All those cold callers hassling you just as you sit down to eat. And when it goes at 3am and you know it can only mean bad news. These days I only use it to call my mother.

  27. Annie Banannie

    I live in Southern CA and we all talk on the phone here while we drive to combat the boredom of traffic. I got so used to the hands-free on my phone that now I can’t talk on the phone at home without it.

    Yesterday I talked to my mother for 20 minutes *while doing nothing else.* Made me a little twitchy.

  28. subWOW

    This is a very creative way to make a comment on social media and our new reality. Brilliant!

  29. Charles Pergiel

    Heather spends FOUR HOURS A DAY on the phone!?!??!?! That’s OK, not my phone, not my time. I use the phone for essential purposes only. To confirm face-to-face meeting times mostly, when I will sit and talk with a person. I want the whole experience, not just the audio track.

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