The Leukemia Society has been trying desperately to get in touch with me. I know this because they have called me every day for the last week. Their name pops up on caller ID and I let the call go to voicemail. I have nothing against the Leukemia Society. They do excellent work but I already donated to them in a number of ways this year. I have deemed their call unworthy.
Caller ID has been heralded as a blessing for most of us. People like me who often find themselves with little time to chat on the phone are grateful for the intelligence concerning the voice on the other end. It grants us the luxury of making choices as to who we interact with on a daily basis. Caller ID has placed the power squarely in the hand that is picking up the phone. And I believe most people consider this technology a welcome advancement from the phone roulette of yesteryear.
But let’s put telemarketers, fundraisers and long-winded distant relatives aside for the moment. I often find myself in the situation when people I am close to don’t pick up their phone when I call. And I know they are home – or attached to their cell phone. They see “Emily Mendell” pop up — and they let it go to voice mail.
Perhaps I should be offended or hurt by this, but I’m largely not. I do the same thing some times. I see someone’s name I truly care for on caller ID and choose not to answer for a variety reasons – none of which is that I don’t like this person. Usually it has to something to do with my current state of insanity and I don’t deem myself worthy of talking. But in doing so, in making that choice, I lose an opportunity to connect with someone who obviously wants to talk to me at that moment – not hours later when I get around to calling them back. Shame on me.
Those who follow me here know that I am a huge proponent of the concept that social media and technology brings us closer – not further apart. But the more I think about Caller ID, the more I believe that it is often abused and misused – by me and others.
I think it was Peter Parker’s uncle who counseled him that “with great power, comes great responsibility”. Caller ID is meant to protect us from unwanted calls – not calls from friends and loved ones. Too busy to talk? The old fashioned way of answering the call and saying “Hey, I’m really busy right now. Can I call you back?” gives the caller a chance to either say “sure” or “no, this is important”. It recalibrates a power paradigm that has shifted way too far to one party. And gives us all a chance to connect like humans should.
I’m still not answering calls from the Leukemia Society. But from now on, if I see your name on my caller ID, I’m going to pick up.