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Cutting the landline cord - and losing family identity....

landlines.jpgWe are in the midst of a truly fascinating cultural shift right now:
We are losing the "family identity" that has been the main characteristic of telephony for the past 100 years.

Think about it... the other day we were at an evening event and met a great couple with whom we would like to stay in touch. We exchanged contact info and they, like so many people these days, have "cut the cord" and do not have a traditional landline but instead have individual mobile phones. The result is this:

I can't call the "Smiths" and speak to someone.

Instead I can call "John Smith" or "Jane Smith".

If I have a message I want to get to the family I have no simple way to do that. I can no longer call "the family phone" and leave a message on their answering machine inviting them over to dinner.

Instead I need to call one of the individual phones - and perhaps both to be sure the message gets through, given that cell phones can be lost or need recharging or that sometimes voicemail messages simply don't get through.

And if a young child wants to call a young child at a landline-less home - and the receiving child doesn't yet have their own cell phone - you have to guess which parent the child might be with.

Now, I don't expect this situation to change. Two years ago I wrote at great length about why I was thinking of cutting the cord myself (and then about why I kept my landline). Last year I wrote about the decline in the landline business in North America and while I haven't checked the most recent stats on landline decline, my own anecdotal evidence tells me that the decline is only continuing. I, too, continue to periodically re-assess whether I want to still keep the landline intact.

It's interesting to wonder, though, what this means for the larger fabric of our society. Are there impacts as we remove the "family" identity and focus on our individual identities? How does it change the nature of communication between families? Or does it not really change things at all?

I don't have the answers... this is probably a longer-term research project some graduate student needs to take on. Still, I wonder...

Meanwhile, since I know in one family that one cell phone died and the voicemail is full on the other phone, I guess I'll have to forget about the phone entirely and just send them a message on Facebook... ;-)

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