Tonawanda News


March 14, 2013

Leave a message at the beep

Tonawanda News — I’m baffled.

This isn’t new. And I’m pretty sure that it’s not a feeling that’s going anywhere, either. I’ll probably be baffled at least once every day of my life, and I don’t suppose that’s necessary a bad thing. 

But sometimes you realize that what you consider, well, the right way to do things — the polite way, the proper way, the way you were raised and the way you just accepted things were — is considered by others to be silly, rude and downright wrong.

Like I said. Baffled.

I recently read an article on, something that sprung from another article in the New York Times, about how leaving a voicemail is rude. Really.

The Times’ article author, Nick Bilton, asserted that “many social norms just don’t make sense to people drowning in digital communication.” Voicemail, he wrote, is impolite, forcing people to waste their time and actually access said voicemail and listen through “long-winded” messages like “Hi, this is so-and-so ...” Don’t people know they should just text you?

I read the Times article. Then I actually tried to ascertain if this was satire, if Bilton was joking. Apparently, he’s not.

Caity Weaver, who wrote about the original Times article on, didn’t agree with all Bilton’s points, but she did on the voicemail one. She even goes so far as to include “a little guide ... to help you[r parents] decide when it’s appropriate to leave a voicemail message on someone else’s phone.”

It includes such voicemail sins as leaving a message if something is time-sensitve (sic), urgent or if “You’re calling to tell me to call you back.” This last because “A voicemail tells me our information transaction is complete; you’ve delivered your message. A missed call tells me our information transaction is beginning.”

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