Let Your Fingers Do the “Talking”

Above is the play on words of the famous 60s slogan “Let Your Fingers do the Walking” for the Yellow Pages commercial business phone book.

Even today, with internet search engines, we still let our fingers do the walking to find information. But while communication technology may be more efficient for business transactions, according to my mom, it comes at a high cost to our interpersonal communication and human interaction.

“Even with all these devices and numerous communication channels, we talk less, and phone etiquette is a lost art.”

~A former 1960’s PBX555 switchboard operator. (my mom)
front view of a phone switchboard
Bell System by Western Electric Switchboard PBX 555: Photo credit Live Auctioneer

Less interaction leaves us with fewer opportunities to practice humanity. And if you’ve spent time on social media, it’s evident the internet can sometimes be hostile territory, the antithesis of social networking.

So, if your livelihood depends on putting the network back in networking, like the switchboard operator, make sure the friendly voice on the line is yours.

I learned this lesson the hard way after trading in my Blackberry Storm for an iPhone in 2013. My Blackberry was a perfect digital assistant, but it wasn’t social, so I focused on maintaining my connections.

Once I got the iPhone, I spent so much time on social networks and iMessages – I didn’t want to take any phone calls.

My motto is, “if I wasn’t in you, you in me, or had something on me -we didn’t need to speak on the phone.”

If someone left a voicemail, I would reply with a text.

Unfortunately, my no-voice rule resulted in my virtual network growing in direct proportion to my real network’s shrinkage. When I deleted my Facebook account in 2014, I left hundreds of virtual friends behind -and very few traverse digital to join me in the real world. 5 years later, I’ve slowly built up my professional and personal network. Today, I spend hours on the phone interviewing subjects for features, brainstorming with prospects, or just shooting the breeze with friends.

And the best part is it’s so satisfying. It feels like an actual in-person visit. No, carefully thought-out responses, no lolls. It’s spontaneous, and there are a lot of genuine belly laughs. A gift I’ve given to myself because I used my fingers to press accept or punch in a number, and they answered.

In Architecture, there’s a saying, “less is more.” When it comes to communication technology, this minimalist approach works with phones too.

As Bell’s 1965 ad promotes:

“Long Distance, It’s the next best thing to being there.” [1]

I do have one question about personal phone calls.

If someone phones you, is it to check up on you – or are they calling to talk about themselves. 

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