Make us your home page
Instagram
Working | Communication

Is this goodbye to voice mails?

Are voice mails obsolete? Does anyone even listen to them anymore? With so many easier ways to communicate, leaving a voice mail may be like putting a message in a bottle. Someone might pick it up — eventually.

Ask any young person. A few days ago at the Trader Joe's grocery in Center City Philadelphia, Surekha Sydney, 27, estimated that she received one voice mail for every 10 or 15 text messages.

"The only people that leave me voice mails are strangers and my parents," she said.

A couple of aisles over, Joe Cotsas, a sophomore at Drexel University, said he tells everyone he knows not to leave him voice mails. If he didn't have to worry about employers calling, he said, he probably wouldn't have bothered to record a personal greeting.

The Pew Internet and American Life Project last fall reported that teens text five times more often per day than adults. Nielsen Co. said teens send an average of six texts every hour they're awake. Texting overall jumped 31 percent in 2010, according to CTIA — The Wireless Association.

This may be why an informal survey of 57 people by the Inquirer found a clear generation gap when it comes to voice mail.

More than half of the 35 respondents younger than 35 said they were in no rush to check voice mail. Seventy-six percent of those younger than 35 said they favored texts or e-mails. Those older than 55 said they preferred phone calls and voice mail.

Checking voice mails often requires a separate phone call, which can be a deterrent. Why waste phone plan minutes if you can just return the missed call? IPhones solve the problem by archiving messages so that they can be played back with one touch, but many young people still don't see the point.

Verizon Wireless spokesman Bob Varettoni noted that text usage had skyrocketed in the past few years, from 9.6 billion texts sent or received by Verizon Wireless customers in the United States during the first quarter of 2006 to 180 billion texts sent in the fourth quarter of 2010.

Parents text now, too, if only to keep in touch with their children.

Texting may be efficient, but it doesn't account for nuance. Once upon a time, facial expressions and voice inflections could convey congeniality, but now people rely on smiley faces and exclamation points. Consider how these notes come across:

The meeting is at 2. Please be on time.

Or:

The meeting is at 2. Please be on time :).

One seems imperious, the other good-natured.

Other tensions can arise. For instance, smartphone users send off rapid-fire e-mails and expect prompt responses in kind. But not everyone has a smartphone.

As tedious as it may seem to some, the safest approach is to ask people how they want to be reached.

Barbara "Babbs" Pratt waxed nostalgic about when you could go to the corner store and put a quarter into a pay phone if you wanted to call somebody. "Years ago, when you would see people walking around and talking to themselves, you would think they were crazy," she said. "Now, they're on the phone."

Is this goodbye to voice mails? 06/25/11 [Last modified: Saturday, June 25, 2011 4:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Philadelphia Inquirer.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Siesta Beach tops Dr. Beach's rankings of best locations in America

    Tourism

    Three beaches in Florida made it on a highly coveted list of the top 10 in America this year, ranked by Dr. Stephen Leatherman, a.k.a. "Dr. Beach."

    This May 18, 2017 photo shows Siesta Beach on Siesta Key in Sarasota, Fla. Siesta Beach is No. 1 on the list of best beaches for the summer of 2017 compiled by Stephen Leatherman, also known as Dr. Beach, a professor at Florida International University. [Chris O'Meara | Associated Press]
  2. Brooksville's popular Florida Cracker Kitchen aims at statewide expansion

    Retail

    BROOKSVILLE — Florida Cracker Kitchen's inverted cowboy boot logo — seemingly plastered on every pickup truck in Hernando County — may someday be just as ubiquitous across the state.

    Shrimp and grits is a signature dish at Florida Cracker Kitchen, which plans to open more restaurants in the state.
  3. Alison Barlow named director to spur creative economy, jobs of St. Pete Innovation District

    Economic Development

    After an extensive search, the recently created St. Pete Innovation District now has its first executive director. Alison Barlow on Thursday was named to the position in which she will help recruit and facilitate a designated downtown St. Petersburg area whose assets and members range from USF St. Petersburg, Johns …

    Alison Barlow has been named the first executive director of the recently created St. Pete Innovation District, a designated downtown St. Petersburg area whose assets and members range from USF St. Petersburg, Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital and Poynter Institute to SRI International and the USF College of Marine Science, among many other organizations. Barlow, who most recently served as manager of the Collaborative Labs at St. Petersburg College, starts her new job June 16.[Photo courtesy of LinkedIn]
  4. Trigaux: Amid a record turnout, regional technology group spotlights successes, desire to do more

    Business

    ST. PETERSBURG — They came. They saw. They celebrated Tampa Bay's tech momentum.

    A record turnout event by the Tampa Bay Technology Forum, held May 24 at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, featured a panel of area tech executives talking about the challenges encountered during their respective mergers and acquisitions. Show, from left to right, are: Gerard Purcell, senior vice president of global IT integration at Tech Data Corp.; John Kuemmel, chief information officer at Triad Retail Media, and Chris Cate, chief operating officer at Valpak. [Robert Trigaux, Times]
  5. Take 2: Some fear Tampa Bay Next transportation plan is TBX redux

    Transportation

    TAMPA — For many, Wednesday's regional transportation meeting was a dose of deja vu.

    The Florida Department of Transportation on Monday announced that it was renaming its controversial Tampa Bay Express plan, also known as TBX. The plan will now be known as Tampa Bay Next, or TBN. But the plan remains the same: spend $60 billion to add 90 miles of toll roads to bay area interstates that are currently free of tolls. [Florida Department of Transportation]