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Unexpected Phone Calls: A Modern Horror Story


Adria Barich is a haunted woman. The tormentor follows her everywhere, threatening to ambush her in a dimly lit garage when she drives down an empty road or allows her guard to wash the dishes. or collapse on the couch.

“I’ve actually changed my ringtone a few times because I’m starting to associate it with terrorism,” says Baric, a 24-year-old California woman who works in marketing. “But every time, after about a week, it’s horrible again.”

Nothing scares a Baric like an incoming call.

“I feel anxiety. I’m getting tough. I also force myself to pretend I haven’t seen it,” he says. “And 9 times out of 10, I won’t answer. If someone really needs to contact me, they can text me, leave a voicemail, or keep calling me over and over again. I am waiting for their next step before deciding what to do.”

He also hates that the person on the other end of the line can’t read facial cues and body language. She recently chose a massage therapist based solely on the fact that the therapist had an online appointment booking system. (“When I have to make an appointment over the phone, I’ve had so many people jump out to avoid the first call.”) It got so bad that Barich wrote a new voicemail greeting. to deter repeat offenders. “Hi, this is Adria,” she said. “I don’t really like answering my phone, so it would be nice if it was a text. Otherwise, please note that it will take me a long time to get back to you. Don’t take it personally. It’s just who I am as a person.”

He posted his new greeting on TikTok with the caption “phone calls are literally the worst thing ever invented.” The sentiment resonated. Baric received comments from hundreds of people with similar phone phobias. A tortured man across the pond asked him if he could rewrite the message in an English accent so they could use it as their own.

If you find these levels of live call fear ridiculous, congratulations. Maybe your friends and family call just to chat, and you welcome those phone calls, even if they’re uninvited or unannounced. Perhaps these conversations rarely turn awkward or tiresome.

For the rest of us, impromptu calls have become roughly equivalent to turning up at someone’s house unannounced and slamming your face into their window. As texting has become the mode of communication for all but the most serious news, our comfort and patience with face-to-face calls has diminished. The ringtone is disappointing. Who pays?

“My mom will call me at 4 o’clock in the afternoon and my first assumption is, ‘Oh, my grandma died’ or something. “There’s always a moment of panic,” said 35-year-old Eric Wheeler. “And he’s always like, ‘Hey! What’s going on?’ And I’m like, ‘Okay, I’m at work. what’s wrong with you Can you just text me?’ “

When Wheeler and his friend Sean Fau decided to start a podcast, the inspiration came for the perfect show title: “Text Before You Call.” They talk about all kinds of topics on their shows, but this part of modern etiquette is one they’re locked into.

“Hearing the phone ringing usually makes me nervous. I hate phone calls in general,” says Fau, 42.

When she hears that pitiful noise, it sets off a cascade of seconds of deliberation: “Do I really want to deal with this guy right now? Do I have an excuse?”

When Wheeler and Fau agreed to jump on the line for this story, they spoke on the phone for only the second time in a decade of friendship. (They mostly communicate via Twitter direct messages, which they much prefer.)

Texts are good too. “Texts are like rockets. ‘Where is this thing?’ ‘What time are you meeting me?’ I like how concise they are,” says Wheeler.

If texts are precision rockets, phone calls can feel like hot air balloons flying without a destination.

“It can be very discursive,” Fau says. “Well, how are you? ‘Good.’ ‘I’m fine.’ ‘What’s going on?’ Can we get to the point here?” Moreover, he adds, “I have a feeling that calling is generally rude. It’s the idea that people only call because they need your attention right now.”

Jeff Hancock, founding director of the Stanford Social Media Lab, says that their immediate and undivided attention is part of why people get upset about unexpected phone calls. Also, there is no real time to prepare. Hancock recently found out how disturbing it was for her doctoral students to receive unscheduled calls from her. “It always scares them. They think: “Why would he call? I must have done something bad. What have I done?’ “

Melissa Christine Munds, a 34-year-old video producer from Louisiana, remembers the thrill of a phone ringing as a child. It could have been a relative or a salesperson, but it could also have been a classmate (maybe a boy!) who called to talk to her. “There was always an element of hope and surprise and excitement,” he says.

This happy buzz is in stark contrast to the anxiety Munds is feeling now, a discrepancy she recently caught on TikTok. “It’s a concern. I am being taken out of my memory, my safe space,” he says. “Before, we didn’t have the resources to be ready for anything. We went with the flow. Now we are very used to planning everything. We don’t like surprises.”

Munds’ phone is usually set to silent or vibrate, but he recently changed his ringtone to “Moonlight Sonata.”

“It’s calming,” he says. “So I don’t panic when I hear that.”

Spam has invaded our phones. Will we want to answer them again?

For 74-year-old Geri Moran, it’s the text messages that are stirring. She’s an accountant, but she also designs humorous products that she sells on Etsy—funny mugs, coasters, and more. – and when he gets into creative mode, he doesn’t want to stop using the bathroom. friend And when his landline gets a call, he doesn’t feel bad about letting the car be taken. Therefore, he tries not to give his mobile number.

“When people call your cell phone or text you, they expect an immediate response. It really annoys me,” Moran says. “I’ve never had anyone call me because I’ve responded to an email or a voicemail a day or two later. But if I don’t respond to a message within an hour or two, I’m called I have a real life. I’m not going to interrupt myself all the time.”

Moran doesn’t hesitate to call people out of the blue. And he is happy when his phone rings. “I love talking on the phone,” he says. He thinks it offers a kind of intimacy that texting can’t touch.

But there is a case that the incoming call raises his blood pressure. Moran has a friend who likes to call unannounced. And it’s never just a voice call; it’s always via FaceTime.

“It drives me crazy,” Moran said. “This is the next level for me.”

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