The Atlantic

Why No One Answers Their Phone Anymore

Telephone culture is disappearing.
Source: Eric Thayer / Reuters

The telephone swept into Americans’ lives in the first decades of the 20th century. At first, no one knew exactly how to telephone. Alexander Graham Bell wanted people to start conversations by saying, “Ahoy-hoy!” AT&T tried to prevent people from saying “hello,” arguing in Telephone Engineer magazine that it was rude.

But eventually, Americans learned to say “hello.” People built a culture around the phone that worked. Etiquette magazines tried to prevent women from inviting people over for dinner via telephone, then gave in. The doctor got a phone, so the pharmacist got a phone. It didn’t happen quickly, but it happened. And once it was done, during my childhood, these social customs sat between

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