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Don’t get me wrong, these recordings have their place (Picture: Bethan King)

After pressing ‘send’ on the fourth voice note to my best friend that morning, I felt a pang of unease.

My message was three minutes long, yet it was by far the shortest I’d sent to her that day. 

We had been exchanging voice notes for two hours, each having a one-way conversation, talking about everything from my bathroom renovation to her choice of outfit for an upcoming event. 

But now, after this back-and-forth had lasted most of the morning, I couldn’t help wondering why hadn’t we just spoken on the phone, instead of sending each other four-minute monologues? 

After all, we’d been friends since school, and back then, we’d rush home to call each other on our parents’ landlines, chatting for hours. We’d never been short of conversation or laughs. 

So how had we fallen into the trap of sending each other pre-recorded messages yet rarely actually speaking? 

It had started a few months earlier: I’d messaged her and she’d replied with a hurried voice note, saying she had too much to say in a text message but was on a work deadline and couldn’t chat over the phone. 

There was no denying this first voice message had novelty value – and it felt more personal and less abrupt than a text message. 

Sending each other voice notes quickly became a fun way to keep in touch when we were both busy with work and kids. And it actually felt like we were speaking more than ever. 

I liked that we could hear each other’s voices, share funny anecdotes about our days or give each other detailed opinions. In a way, it made me feel closer to her.

Crucially, leaving them was less time consuming than a phone call, so I started exchanging them with other close friends in our group too.

Rather than having to set specific time aside to make a phone call, I could rattle off what I wanted to say between meetings, while making dinner or whenever was convenient for me.

According to WhatsApp, which launched voice messaging in 2013, its users send 7billion voice notes a day and, for a while, I was definitely contributing to that stat.

But after a few months, I realised my friends and I had all stopped talking to each other. 

I was struggling to remember the last time I’d picked up the phone and called them. Any semblance of actual conversation had stopped. It all felt so one-sided, strange, and even a bit sad, that we rarely had spontaneous chats anymore.

I knew I’d made the right choice in stopping sending them (Picture: Bethan King)

Where I had once felt closer than ever to them, losing that one-to-one connection and the ability to laugh about something in real time felt really sad.

I’d also started to find the whole task of sending a voice note quite laborious. I’d spend time thinking over what I wanted to say before I pressed record to avoid rambling on or even re-recording myself if I thought something I’d said sounded ridiculous – effectively editing what I’d said, which wouldn’t happen that much during a normal conversation.

It felt like I wasn’t really giving a realistic portrayal of how my day had gone, or how I was feeling either. Instead I was always trying to make myself sound funny or upbeat. 

It hit me that we were all probably waiting on each other’s voice note replies, too – a phone conversation would have been done and dusted in 20 minutes, but some of our monologue exchanges would ping back and forth for days at a time. 

Above all, they had also started to feel a bit like an avoidance tactic for having an actual conversation or as a buffer to actually having to engage.

Given this was happening with my best friends, frankly, it felt tragic. 

So I stopped. 

If a voice note popped up from a friend who I couldn’t call back then and there, I’d text saying I’d call them later then made a conscious effort to call when I said I would. They weren’t always able to chat but I promised to call them the moment they were free

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Phone calls didn’t need to be lengthy though – 15 minutes would suffice – and afterwards I felt immeasurably more positive, uplifted, lighter even.

I knew I’d made the right choice in stopping sending them, but so as not to offend anyone, I kept my decision to myself. Everyone has different demands on their time and I didn’t want them to feel it wasn’t welcome if that was the only option they had in that moment.

However, I have since asked friends and acquaintances how they really feel about voice notes and as it turns out, I’m not alone in my newfound dislike of them. 

Statistically speaking only 16% of smartphone users openly admit they like sending voice notes and only 22% like receiving them. 

As for my friends, one actually told me they find voice notes insulting. ‘It’s like someone can’t be bothered to phone me, but they think I should make the time to listen to their monologue regardless,’ she said.

Do you like sending voicenotes? Have your say in the comments belowComment Now

Don’t get me wrong, these recordings have their place and can be really useful in certain situations – if you’re unable to text or need to quickly communicate lots of important information that would take too long to type, they can be a lifesaver.

Personally I found them most useful when out and about or on the school run with my two children – a voice note means I can keep an eye on them at all times rather than having my nose buried in my screen.

While in a work context, I have found them incredibly useful when communicating a work project with a client who was visually impaired.

But favouring voicenotes over conversation is an all too convenient and easy trap to fall into, and like me, you can quickly find yourself mourning the loss of two-way interactions with people you care about. 

After all, who wants to have a relationship with what is basically someone’s voicemail? 

Nothing can truly replace that connection you feel and endorphin boost you get from actually speaking to a friend. 

Ultimately, after learning the hard way, I’m choosing old-school phone calls now to nurture and protect my meaningful relationships in the long-term. 

My friends and I chat weekly on the phone and it’s helped re-strengthen our relationship as we’re no longer drip-feeding each other tidbits of information over voice notes.

Instead, we can really engage with each other, laugh together and be our unfiltered selves – and that is something I’ll never again take for granted.

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