Please, please can we stop sending voice notes?



Voice notes are the devil. There, I said it. They are the scourge of WhatsApp, once a perfectly good instant messaging platform, now marred by the menacing possibility of having to listen to someone who is more of a vague acquaintance than a close friend explaining the ins and outs of whether their roommate likes them or not. not, without interruption, for nine whole minutes.

I realize this could be a polarizing sight, and I would like to take this opportunity to reassure my friends and loved ones that I am happy to know you and to be connected with you, and I care what you have to say. But I’m asking you – no, I’m begging you: please don’t deliver your thoughts in the form of a voice note.

My heart sinks when I see a voice note coming, and if it’s longer than a minute, then bitter experience dictates I’m probably not going to play it. This will become yet another thing on my to-do list, an unwelcome new obligation that seems oddly daunting, and certainly wouldn’t have been if the sender had just typed in what he wanted to tell me.

Even the courts are a minefield. At 19 seconds, does the voice note say “sure, I’ll be there?” or does he say “I hate you”? Please spare my level of anxiety and use the dictation feature instead.

Voice notes are akin to the traditional phone call, and that’s part of why I despise them, because I hate the chest-clenching, heart-pounding anxiety of being on the phone – whether it’s to someone one I am close to or a stranger trying to sell me Sky broadband. They have the edge over phone calls in some ways (you can pause and come back to them, or put off listening to them indefinitely), but they’re also worse, because it feels less like a reciprocal experience.

Perhaps it’s a kind of latent puritanism that rears its ugly head, but sends out a vocal note when you don’t need to feel some complacency. It seems oddly extravagant to me, like doing your weekly shopping at Whole Foods or having some sort of elaborate skincare routine.

A question that desperately needs to be asked here is: who are these people, these monsters, who thinks it’s okay to send podcast-length voice notes? Do they believe that the rest of us have unlimited time? Unlimited patience? That we wouldn’t rather listen to music and quietly reading their last missive instead?

Perhaps the sender of the voice note suffers from main character syndrome, or is working under the illusion that his life is one long and endlessly fascinating Sally Rooney novel. I don’t mean to generalize, but voice note senders have a certain amount of self-confidence, they’re totally out of phase with the sound of their own soft tones, and I’m pretty sure they’re not really too busy to use their thumbs and type.

I see you, sending out your voice notes, sweeping the sidewalk in a long dress, followed by an explosion of Le Labo’s Santal 33, trilling observations into your overturned phone.

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And let’s face it, voice notes always come at the most inopportune times. I’m sure at least some of you know the horror of accidentally opening one in the office or on public transport, when the headphones aren’t plugged in.

I want to ingest my information quickly and concisely on WhatsApp, which means being able to summarize a message visually. Your voice note denies it to me.

Of course, for some people and in some situations, voice notes are much more accessible and convenient. Sometimes they are, I reluctantly admit, necessary. But that’s the exception, not the rule. I’m also aware that some people find them intimate or romantic – and that’s fine, if that’s your thing. But keep your weird, breathless recordings away from me.

If you prefer to communicate with me entirely in the form of gifs and emojis, I welcome that. Stop with the voice notes, for God’s sake.

About Hannah Schaeffer

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