Do we still need a phone ?

Ring Ring …  Ring Ring … to be quite honest, I can’t remember when was the last time I heard a “real” telephone make that sound. Sometimes, when I’m watching some old movie ( I like old movies ) you hear the characteristic sound of a ringing telephone as you see one of the characters dashes across the room to pick it up. Its been ages since we had a phone that made that sound .. and come to think of it , its been quite a while since MY cellphone rang either. There used to be a time when I could not leave the house without my trusty friend. Before the coming of the internets and mobile broadband, your phone was your only ‘link’ with the rest of your life once you where out and about. One would never leave without ones phone .. feel naked without ones phone.  Yet last monday I noticed that I had forgot to recharge my smartphone for the last 5 days. After rapidly connecting it to a charger and checking if I had any voicemails .. I wasn’t surprised that I had … zero missed calls. 

This is a result of something I have set in motion some years ago. Training my surroundings to use Email and other means of communication to get in touch with me. Last year I had shut down my phone for a couple of weeks. Callers would get a voicemail message that they could contact me via email and other forms of communication. Checking the voice mailbox every couple of days I would return the odd call, but if people would send me an email, I would reply instantly. Quickly enough the understanding grew : If you wanna get in touch with Knightwise : Email him. In truth I must say that I DID carry around my work phone during the day. Its “voice number” unknown to my social circles, but tied in to my “digital means” of communication through Email, Twitter and Chat.  The luxury was quite profound. No pesky calls of so called “friends” to fix their computers, no calls from distant relatives nagging about this and that .. but most importantly : The luxury to respond at ones one leisure. Think of it : The basic concept of a phone is that it makes an annoying sound ( That does not care if you are in a meeting, out on the street or on the very erge of kissing the woman you love ) Social expectations dictate that you ANSWER the phone at once. Leaving it to ring is of course also an option but the annoying sound the darn thing makes goes on and on. NOT answering in time gives the caller an ability to talk to your voicemail OR try ringing you AGAIN (hence the entire process starts over again). Whenever my phone rings I find myself RUSHING towards it to prevent the darn thing going to voicemail. Preferring to talk to the caller right away in favor of having to ring my voicemail , listen to the message and call him or her back. 

Streamlining my “other” forms of communication has become a little bit of a hobby for me. Back in the day when I used to get one of two emails a day, I would look on the internets for some funky sounds that my computer (or my phone) could make when an email arrived. But with the plethora of communications hitting my personal reception points ( A new word I made up to summarize Email, Im, Twitter etc ) I have found that the art lies in “discretion”. Low discrete buzzes and beeps now chime the arrival of a message. Since they arrive on several devices (who operate in several social situations) those notifications can vary from quite loud to silent. According to sender or source i’ve setup some rules that either announce or even ignore the arrival of said communication completely. 

The trick is once again : Have technology work for you ! In order to do this you have to step away from “the default” a situation where all communications at all times in all social situations are equal. Just like setting your ‘phone’ to ‘mute’ when you are in a meeting, you need to ‘trim’ your digital communications too. Lets take a look at classic “email” and give you some lifehacks on how to configure it for your PC, your tablet (if you have one) and your phone.

Lets say your email address is wiseguy@gmail.com and you get quite a few messages on there. 

1 : Start off by making separate mailboxes for your devices. 

wg_myphone@gmail.com

wg_mytablet@gmail.com

2 : Set up a bunch of rules that copy and forward messages from your ‘main’ mailbox to your devices. This way a lot of your traffic gets ‘filtered’ and ‘forwarded’ to the right locations. For example an email from your spouse might be important so you push it forward from your main mailbox to your cellphone. The “funny” email your mother sent you can probably wait until tonight.   People who put you in the .cc field might not want an answer right away so those probably don’t have to get forwarded either.  The trick with these rules is simple. The “bulk” of your email is caught in your “official” mailbox and with the use of some smart rules, your ‘digital agent’ forwards them to you based on sender, subject or importance. The trick is to evaluate what might be important and to asses in what matter you want to be disturbed. You wanna get 500 messages on your phone every day ? Go ahead. The chance that you’ll be able to be productive with all these interruptions is small, the chance that you’ll be able to interact with all of them is even smaller. (the “interface” is too small). 

3 : Have a fallback scenario : Configure your “mail mailbox” on all your devices but disable “push” or automatic syncing. That way you can still “check” your email box should you need to AND have the ability to ‘reply’ with your official “sender” address. 

4 : Deal with email when you want to , where you want to.   Tablets and Phones are awesome devices for quick and dirty communication. But ramming out 15 pages of poetry on your smartphone is a thumb-numbing experience that I do not wish upon you. So have your ‘TECH’ filter out your email and don’t let these distractions “interrupt” your day. Have you teck manage your communications.. Don’t have your communications manage the way you live. 

In this omni-connected world where many forms of communications change the way we experience life in general, we need to find new ways to deal with all of this . As another “pingwave” goes through the house ( the sequential chime of all of my connected devices that ‘ping’ as a single email arrives ) I’ve come to the realisation that we need to change the way we deal with all of this. With this simple hack i’ve been able to filter interruptions based on the device i’m carrying around and the situation that i’m in. Now I just hope my cellphone doesn’t ring. 

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