It’s a cold-but-sunny Saturday afternoon in April, and the dog paces enviously around me as I tuck into a delicious ice-cream treat. I have just finished a yummy baked salmon salad and now a smile is wide on my face as I gaze off into the distance, transfixed on a familiar voice bouncing from the speaker in my phone. While I have been busying myself with early afternoon Saturday-ish tasks and lunch I have been accompanied by the wonderful voices of distant friends; brought into my home by the wonder of WhatsApp. Through the medium of what I lovingly call; Mouth Letters.
Relatively speaking, this is not new technology. WhatsApp originally introduced “voice messaging” back in 2013, so please do excuse me for being late to this vibrant conversational party. At the crux of my Mouth Letter reliance lies the fact that somewhere over the years I developed a sincere discomfort with phone calls. Once upon a time, before the days of the smartphone, I could easily sustain chats for hours on end. As a teenager the arrival of the phone bill was something to be utterly dreaded as I desperately tried to deny the cold, hard fact that I had whiled away over 2 hours in one sitting on the phone. I was a chatty-phone-pro…but not any more! Nowadays I stumble my words and speak over the other person. A looming sense of anxiety fills the blank spaces where conversation should be. Not to mention that I will find any reason to avoid talking on the phone: Bad reception. Low battery. Phone was stolen by voracious, drone-propelled monkeys. Anything!
Hello. My name is Tamara and I am a phone-o-phobe.
I know I’m not alone with this! Ironically, the birth of the mobile phone, and more specifically the smartphone, has changed our communication preferences to the point that many millenials clam up at the very concept of having to make a personal phone call. An unexpected call can spike my feelings of confusion and anxiety on even my brightest days. “Why would someone call?! It must be an emergency!”
Mouth Letters don’t do that. What I have found is that I can take a few minutes out (or, like, 28 minutes…seriously…time flies when you’re carving out mouth letters) to check in with a distant or not-so-distant pal. A mouth letter pal recently likened it to a kind of an oral diary; instead of Dear Diary, it’s Dear Tam, and this diary will respond…eventually. The no-pressure format invites an ease and flow, that has an inherent forgiveness. There are no interruptions so I feel like I can explain myself concisely and clearly. I have found it to be a wonderful medium where, so far at least, the misunderstandings so common with text messaging just don’t seem to be an issue.
I am extremely fortunate to have made some stunning and soulful friends during my world travels, and my only issue is this whole, damned, geography thing. I swear it will never catch on! Due to the distances, it can be so hard to make time for phonecalls with 12 hour time differences. But, magically, we have found a way around our polar opposite end of the day and have begun exchanging long, descriptive mouth letters. As I have aged, my friendships have matured too and I am so blessed that they can continue to do so.
Why am I saying this?
As I write this, I am asking myself is this just a load of waffly nonsense?…And perhaps you think it is, in which case I have to congratulate you on making it this far. But lately I am growing increasingly conscious that we live in an age of frantically-dispensed, readily-available and utterly meaningless forms of “communication”. We can maintain contact without actually knowing what’s going on. We can stay on top of the the details of someone’s life, without ever understanding where their stresses or successes are landing. I struggle with the idea that through technology we are simultaneously growing increasingly contactable while being constantly unavailable and emotionally distant. My recent habitual Mouth Letter behaviour has opened up doors to re-establish these beautiful and meaningful friendships. Thousands of miles have separated some of the most valuable conversations that I have had in years, and I guess I wanted to take a minute to recognise their value.
Your own digital whispers
I invite you to pick up your phone and check out your own WhatsApp or Telegram contact list. Let someone meaningful hear your voice! It is personal. It is intimate. It takes thought and just a little effort. If you ask me, in an age of virtue-signalling and empty, nonsensical gestural deception, and few minutes of honest conversation will be well received!
And sure, if you’re at a loose end, send me a mouth letter! I promise to respond…eventually 😉