The other day, Mr. W was driving us home when my cell phone rang and caller ID revealed it was Lily, whom I hadn’t spoken to for…gosh. A year? She doesn’t have a blog and she doesn’t do the online social networking thing, so the only information I get about her life is if/when she emails. She and her husband Arnold do a holiday newsletter so all the most recent updates I have are from that. I was curious and a little concerned to hear from her out of the blue. The conversation started with the usual exchange, “So what’s new with you?” I told her what’s newest with me, she told me what her work and her husband’s work recently has been like, she told me about their split times between various hospitals (she’s a radiologist and he’s a cardiologist), their recent goals… and I was on the verge a couple times of asking her, “So, what’s up?” to get to the point of why she called. About half an hour into letting the conversation go in its natural meandering course, she told me she had now arrived at her destination and would call me maybe next week to chat some more and catch up.

She only called me to chat because she had free time on her drive to talk? *blink blink* So…there WAS no point to the talk, she had nothing important to tell me, no disaster to seek consolation about, no request to make of me?

And then I remembered how things USED to be. In high school and into college, we used to call each other just cuz we’re bored and wanted to talk. There wasn’t always a point to the call, but we figured we’d collect lots of points along the route of our conversations, and we always did. She wasn’t the only one, I did this with lots of friends. It was how we bonded, hung out when we couldn’t physically hang out. My parents never understood it and thought it a huge waste of time (thank goodness they were mostly local calls so they couldn’t kill me for wasting money, too). They would say that the point of a phone call is to convey a message, and when that task was done, then it was time to hang up and go about the rest of the day. I’d roll my eyes and think about how parents don’t understand anything and how we NEEDED these talks, these bonding times.

I guess I’m in my parents’ shoes, now. Instead of being excited when the phone rings like I used to be, I get annoyed and wonder who is interrupting whatever I was doing. Seeing the caller ID would sometimes mitigate the annoyance, i.e. “Oh, it’s ___. I’m sure it’s important.” “Good, it’s ___ calling me back about our weekend plans.” “Hey, ___’s calling! We like ___!” Not that I want to discourage my friends from calling, it’s just that it’s so RARE these days. We mostly touch base by email or text or social networking; phone calls seem reserved for urgent-response-required matters. Sometimes I’d be texting or online chatting with a friend (which seems less intrusive to their day), and there’d be something they want to relay but would take too long to type out, so they say they’ll call me right then, so I get a heads-up.

I wonder what changed. Have WE changed, by way of getting adult responsibilities, so that we have less time to “waste” on socializing on the phone? Has social communication etiquette changed with the new forms of available communication, such that we’d rather leave non-emergent messages for each other via email (if unimportant) or text (if a little more immediate) so we don’t impose and interrupt our friends’ day, letting them get back to us at their convenience? Have we lost the need for human interaction so it simply doesn’t occur to us to bother with keeping in touch with friends personally, as long as we can laugh at someone’s status message online once in awhile? Is “lol” what passes for “KIT” these days?