Can we talk?
Not if you’re using Slydial.
As its name suggests, Slydial subverts the process of calling someone on their cell phone by routing the caller directly to the recipient’s voicemail. The service bypasses the usual ringing that alerts an incoming call, and thereby negates the chance—or risk--of having a conversation. A new message appears, but only after the fact.
Slydial describes the feat as “the illusion of communication without the hassle of engaging in a time-consuming conversation.” The company’s suggested uses for the service include these for college students: “breaking up with a significant other…juggling a hectic dating life…or calling home for cash.”
While there are other uses for Slydial—it’s good for shy people, someone pointed out, and for legitimately not interrupting the recipient—many question whether a tool that encourages users to avoid direct communication is a responsible use of technology.
“Talk, that most valuable human asset, is shunned,” explained a communications professor. “If these are the technology’s primary uses, it brings with it a world where conversation and community take a back seat to one’s immediate wants—a world where ‘me’ trumps ‘we.’”
A 26-year-old woman who used Slydial to break up with a man she’d been dating explained, “Text messaging someone ‘I would prefer not to see you again’ is really not my style. But at the same time, I wanted to avoid an awkward conversation.”
Some say a new trend has emerged: We are constantly just missing one another—on purpose, and are more interested in “broadcasting” information than in true conversational give-and-take.
“When I was growing up,” lamented one critic, “when the phone rang in the house, it was a big deal. You would have to get up to go answer the phone. And then you would have to stand next to the phone, because the phone was attached to the wall. You didn’t know who it was before you answered it. That was the exciting part. Who was calling? Will it be for me? Will it be a boy? Will it be Grandma calling long distance?
“Now the phone rings and you think, ‘Shoot, more talking. I’ve had enough talking. Can’t they just email?’”
Tell us what you think: Is it irresponsible to make a technological end-run around someone to avoid a difficult conversation? Where does our responsibility to talk to someone begin and end? Are we becoming a society more interested in “me” than “we”?