Why Are We All So Terrified of Leaving Voicemails?

Apparently under 35s have all become so rubbish at leaving voicemails we actually need lessons in how to do it


by Sophie Cullinane |
Published on

You know that crushing feeling you get when you look down at your mobile phone and you see that angry red dot on your home screen telling you that you’ve got a voicemail? It can’t be good news, you think to yourself, because the only people who actually leave voicemails are the council, your boss or (at best) your great-aunt, Petunia, who’s phoned to monologue at you about everything she’s had for dinner that week.

By why is it that people we actually want to speak to – i.e. our friends – are the never the ones leaving us voicemails? Think about it, when was the last time you gave your friend an actual call, let alone a message on their answering machine? If you were to look at the last few people you’ve phoned, we’d hazard a guess that you’ve given more actual voice time to the pizza delivery line and work colleagues than you have done with your actual friends. But what’s going on? Is texting really quicker or easier, or is something else going on here?

Well, according to The New York Times, it's because we’re absolutely terrified of leaving voicemails, especially if the person on the end of the line is someone we’re dating or need to impress. Not because the voicemails can be stored and shared around (you can do the same with text messages), but because it's easy to glean from a person’s voice how nervous they are by any mistakes or mispronunciations made. You can hide behind a text, but in a voicemail you're leaving it all out there. In fact, voicemails are now so much of a lost skill that the Etiquette School of New York is training millenials to leave voice messages. So why all the fear?

Milla Harkness, 27, thinks it’s all relative. ‘It really depends on who it is,’ she explains. ‘Generally, I would rather not leave anyone a voicemail as I can't help but sound formal or start rambling, or forget why I'm calling and regret it afterward – talking into the black abyss of your phone makes me feel self-conscious. If it’s a boy you’re chirpsing, then definitely not, but it’s fine to leave voicemails at work when everything feels more formal anyway. With friends it’s okay as well – we sing voicemails down the phone to each other – but with people my age, you assume a certain level of intimacy for it not to seem totally awkward. It’s all relative.’

Olivia Maconie, 26, believes it’s got everything to do with the fact that picking up a voicemail is just a bit of a pain in the arse. ‘It’s more of a “who the hell listens to voicemails anymore?” kind of a situation,’ she tells The Debrief. ‘I, for one, just don’t listen to them – it’s only ever my mum and she’ll persist if it’s really important or the dentist. It’s much better to just send me a text, it’s just less effort and it’s a real palava listening to a voicemail. I don’t want them, so why on earth would I send them?’

So, by the sound of things, voicemails are now either resigned to stay in the office or between your very best friends, or are just a bit of a awkward pain in the arse. Either way, it's no bad thing if we stop leaving those rambling, four-minute drunk voicemails on our pal's phone, is it?

Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophiecullinane

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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