When it was introduced in the early 1980s, voice mail was hailed as a miracle invention — a boon to office productivity and a godsend to busy households. Hollywood screenwriters incorporated it into plotlines: Distraught heroine comes home, sees blinking red light, listens as desperate suitor begs for another chance to make it all right. Beep!
But in an age of instant information gratification, the burden of having to hit the playback button — or worse, dial in to a mailbox and enter a pass code — and sit through “ums” and “ahs” can seem too much to bear.
Many dread the process or, like Mr. Hamrick, avoid it altogether, raising the question: is voice mail on its way to becoming obsolete?
“Once upon a time, voice mail was useful,” said Yen Cheong, 32, a book publicist in New York who has transitioned almost entirely to e-mail and text messaging. According to her calculation, it takes 7 to 10 steps to check a voice mail message versus zero to 3 for an e-mail.
“If you left a message, I have to dial in, dial in my code,” Ms. Cheong said. “Then I mess up and redial. Then once I hear the message, I need the phone number. I try to write it down, and then I have to rewind the message to hear it again,” she added, feigning exhaustion.
Tim Kassouf from Baltimore, 24, who calls himself “a certified voice mail hater,” said he had 68 messages, 62 of them unheard, in his cellphone mail box. Scott Taylor, 41, a senior manager at an e-commerce company in Phoenix, said voice mail was “just totally an ineffective communication method, almost ancient now.”
Like many others, Mr. Taylor advises callers on his outgoing message to try his cellphone or to send an e-mail message if they need to reach him right away.
It is good advice. Research shows that people take longer to reply to voice messages than other types of communication. Data from uReach Technologies, which operates the voice messaging systems of Verizon Wireless and other cellphone carriers, shows that over 30 percent of voice messages linger unheard for three days or longer and that more than 20 percent of people with messages in their mailboxes “rarely even dial in” to check them, said Saul Einbinder, senior vice president for marketing and business development for uReach, in an e-mail message.
By contrast, 91 percent of people under 30 respond to text messages within an hour, and they are four times more likely to respond to texts than to voice messages within minutes, according to a 2008 study for Sprint conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation. Even adults 30 and older are twice as likely to respond within minutes to a text than to a voice message, the study found.
There are no definitive studies of how many voice mail messages American leave compared with earlier periods, but if the technology is heading toward obsolescence — as many communication experts suspect — the trend is being driven by young people. Again and again, people under 25 recount returning calls from older colleagues and family members without bothering to listen to messages first. Thanks to cellphone technology, they can see who called and hit the Send button to reply without calling their voice mail box. “Didn’t you get my message?” parents ask. “No,” their children reply, “but I saw that you called.”
Losing it’s allure? More like lost. I’ve never liked voicemail, except as a necessary evil.
Oddly, after having my new phone service for almost 9 months, I finally got around to recording my outgoing message on my voicemail … of course, what I really did was type something up and have my computer speak it into the phone … and my message tells people to email or text me if they want a quick response … I did this BEFORE finding this article while trying to get caught up on the day’s news.
I can’t remember the last time I listened to a voicemail message except at work, and even those sometimes don’t get picked up for 2-3 days (bad, I know, but that is why I have email).
There’s a lot more interesting info in the story, so definitely go check it out.