Friday, December 8, 2023

An Ode To The Landline: Why I Had A Landline Installed in The Year 2022

In an attempt to be less glued to her cellphone, Emma Clifton has bought two old-fashioned items: an alarm clock and a landline. Here’s why she swears by both.

Nothing shows my age more – hurtling towards 37 – than the fact one of my latest purchases is a landline. Yes, a landline. Have you tried to buy a landline recently? It’s not the easiest purchase. They are something of a retail dinosaur and the target age is definitely indicated by the fact that the only one I could buy has VERY LARGE, glow-in-the dark buttons and had a photo of a handsome 75-year-old man on the box.

I get it.

I initially bought a landline after we had a family emergency and I wanted my parents to be able to contact me, 24/7, but without me having to sleep with my cellphone next to me in bed. Having my cellphone be the first thing I look at in the morning guarantees an utterly shit mental health day, which is why I bought a $12 alarm clock from Briscoes and vowed to have my phone on airplane mode from 8pm till 8am, every day. But that’s not useful in an emergency, is it? Enter the landline.

Back in the podcast glory days of The High Low podcast, journalist and co-host Pandora Sykes talked about buying a landline and wrote about it in her excellent book, Are We Doing It Right, as a way of becoming less glued to her cellphone. At the time, I – in the flush of youth that is 35 – thought, ‘This is insane, landlines are for old people.’ But it’s been a long two years and here we are.

Here is why I love my landline

– Only three people have the number and they are the only three people I actually need to hear from, 24/7.

– Unlike my cellphone, my landline does not bring me tales of war, plague, pestilence. It is simply A Phone.

– When I use my landline, I don’t then lose the next 30 minutes scrolling through social media and having the algorithm trick me into thinking I need a pair of dusty pink gumboots.

– It’s a fun talking point!!

– It means I can turn my cellphone off every night at 8pm but people (three people) can still reach me in an emergency.

– If the apocalypse comes and the internet dies and I lose my phone charger, I can still make phone calls and people (three people) can call me.

When I was at intermediate, I would talk to my best friend Michelle the entire day and then when we got home, we would call each other up and talk for an extra two hours every night. I would twirl the cord around my fingers, gabbing about nothing, filling the air with utter nonsense.

Any time someone rings me on my cellphone, I assume a) something terrible has happened, b) there is a work emergency, c) something terrible has happened

Like most things that happen in adulthood, somewhere along the way the fun got sucked out of this nonsense little activity and now any time someone rings me on my cellphone, I assume a) something terrible has happened, b) there is a work emergency, c) something terrible has happened.

I have two friends who call instead of text but the rest of my friend group seems to also equate phone call = dire emergency. (I am aware of the irony that I installed the landline literally for emergency use and now treat it as a mental health lifesaver, but anything that makes me rely on a cellphone less is a win in my book).

Our cellphones are designed to be addictive, to reel us in for one reason (making a call) and keep us trapped for another reason (scrolling for 40 minutes through Twitter about which woman the internet hates this week). The more we can make simple switches to reduce the reel-in reasons, the better. An alarm clock keeps me phone free in the mornings and a landline keeps me phone free at night. Now, if only I could remember my actual landline number…

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