Paid subscriptions aren't the currency websites traffic in. It's, well, traffic -- traffic on the site itself and, more importantly, traffic from every other outlet onto which a site extends its tendrils. They want you to like them on Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr and other such places the website can digitally stalk you as you're busy stalking people on the same sites. They want your email so they can be wherever you are online. Shit, it wouldn't be surprising if one day they asked for your Xbox Live gamertag so random characters in Skyrim and Grand Theft Auto can remind you of new content on a real-world website. It's a common practice that, like the most resilient zombie in the horde, just won't die. When the Internet is powder you can snort and feel on your brain, our amygdalae will be slathered in the slimy resin of requests to follow Brobible on Twitter.
Nervousness When Leaving a Voice Message Is Back With a Vengeance
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For this entry, I should just copy and paste this entire New York Times article about the high-pressure, fight-or-flight situation that is leaving a voicemail. In fact, I'm going to start off this entry the same way the Times started their article -- by reminding you about this painful yet perfect scene from Swingers.
Jon Favreau keeps calling up a woman he just met, leaving one disastrously awkward message on her answering machine after another. That's what leaving a message on an answering machine used to be for a lot of people. Shuddering and stammering, long pauses as thoughts that had been carefully gathered and organized exploded in a million directions when it came time to leave the message, a complete loss of understanding about what the hell is even happening anymore -- it was stage fright, and all because it was being recorded on tape. There were no do-overs. You had one shot; if you blew it, you were screwed.
But then something changed when cellphones started taking over. "Answering machine" became "voicemail," and with that came a subconscious freedom. Even if a voicemail service didn't offer the chance to re-record the message, it didn't feel like there was as much pressure as before, probably because your pathetic ramblings weren't occupying a physical space in someone's home anymore.
Once texting became the standard way to leave a message, voicemails started to feel like as much fun as really long, firmly gripped titty twisters. With a text or an email, a person can type and read and re-read and ponder and edit and re-read again and change wording and edit some more and then, finally, send the message out, all on their own time. There's no ticking clock like with a voicemail. No pressure to get it right. Texting allows for breathing room, which makes it amazing that all of us still manage to fuck up every single text so stupendously the person on the receiving end can't be faulted for thinking a dog stepped all over the phone and hit "send."
And so we've come full circle and added a hefty scoop of inexperience with verbal communication. When voicemail eventually dies out, it won't be because we didn't find a use for it anymore. It'll be because we were too scared to use it, so we banished it to the realm of obsolete technology to rest for eternity beside 8-track players and floppy discs.
Luis is trying to figure out which came first: the awkwardness of leaving a message or the awkwardness of leaving a message while knowing the person receiving it doesn't want to sit through a shitty voice message. While he ponders this deep, philosophical question, you can find him on Twitter and Tumblr.
For more from Luis, check out 5 Ways Your Favorite Holidays Change as You Get Older. And then check out 20 Annoying 'Modern' Trends That Are Older Than You Think.
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