When I was a child, I severely disliked talking on the telephone, especially when I was the caller. I don't really know why this was — maybe I had an issue with talking to people I can't see, or maybe I just didn't like talking to people in general; not talking to somebody is so much easier when they're not there. I certainly used to be at odds with the idea that there's no way of knowing which member of the household you're calling will pick up the phone, but that issue was soon fixed by mobile phones. Anyway, I may not always have been the telephone's biggest fan, but today, I would like to stress what a great thing it really is.
With the spread of the mobile phone and the internet, quick text-based communication has become more and more widespread. In the business world, the e-mail has replaced not only the fax but also many a quick phone call, while in my age group, everything seams to revolve around Facebook messages. It has been argued that an e-mail much more civilised than a phone call: by calling somebody, you are asking them to stop whatever they're doing to occupy themselves with whatever you have to say, and, after all, who are you to say that you're more important than whatever they were working on? An e-mail affords the recipient the liberty of staying in control of their own precious time.
This inherent asynchrony of e-mail can be an advantage, especially in cases where you want a thought-through response, but it can be a distinct disadvantage in discussions that lend themselves well to certain possibilities that an immediate spoken dialog offers. For example, when communicating by e-mail, you cannot interject, in the middle of an argument, “Yes, I've thought of that and see where you are going, but have you considered …”. When considering a philosophical point, it may not hurt to always write out an argument in full, as did the great thinkers in their letters in times when mail was not transported by glass fibre, but by horse-drawn carriages, but when you're trying to arrange a get-together, the immediate back-and-forth of a phone call can save an astounding amount of time.
Why? That is difficult to say. I think the fact that anything uttered gets feedback immediately changes a lot: it allows us to think together, to, in a way, synchronize our trains of thought to a certain extent. It also allows suggestions to be shot down or reaffirmed immediately, which can allow a consensus to be formed in minutes instead of days. There are also some more subtle psychological arguments that might be made: Firstly, a phone call is generally a complete conversation, while an e-mail can be just a tiny part of one, which makes losing focus quite easy. Secondly, it is extremely easy to just quickly skim an email and decide to think about and answer it later, and then forget, or ignore, the whole thing for a few hours (or days) too many. A phone call may be more intrusive, but it does get the attention it needs
Finally, to round the post off, the inspirational example: yesterday evening, a bunch of phone calls in the space of about ten minutes organized a time (“in half an hour”), place (“I dunno, at my place?”), and four Schafkopf players. On the other hand, there's a thread on my Facebook account that has been trying to go to the cinema for weeks.
As always, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.