In praise of phonecalls

The video-conference meeting is a hoax. We are sitting in front of screens watching other people and talking to them, but the reality is that a screen presence is nowhere near a real presence, and all of the attention that is drawn into trying to make sense of the other person on the screen, often in their study or kitchen or basement, is wasted. We are visual beings, yes, but the video-conference is one of those weird things that we ended up with because we thought that this was what the future would look like. “In the future we will all be using video-phones!”

Ugh.

Can we return this future to sender?

It is paradoxical not least because the fastest growing medium AND the fastest growing social networking too are both based on…audio. Podcasts and Clubhouse should remind us that we can focus when listening, and sometimes even do simpler things like walk, clean the house and just lie down if we feel like it when we are audio-only. Imagine if one third of the video meetings you are in ended up being walking meetings! The overall health effect – especially in a pandemic where your overall stamina should be a thing! – would be awesome!

And audio-meetings force a limit on size – which is another thing that video-meetings do not. In video meetings you can end up with far too many participants, in a call you would end up with fewer and probably more concentrated meetings.

Phone-calls are conversations, video-conferences are performances.

It starts, as all great changes, with micro-social sabotage. Insist on taking your next meeting as a phone call, and take a walk – enjoy nature and get work done at the same time. Conversations and meetings are essential after all, but screens are not.

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