How to get questions answered

By Gary Abernathy - [email protected]

Gary Abernathy Staff Columnist

Gary Abernathy Staff Columnist

Many of you know that the new “smartphone” devices are our mobile gateways to Facebook, Twitter, email, instant messaging, videos, mapping and other digital platforms. But did you know that they can also make a phone call?

Phone calls were popular in the 20th century, but they can still be made today. For the younger generation, a phone call connects you directly with the people with whom you want to communicate, as long as they know how to answer it, which we will discuss later.

With a phone call, you can have a direct conversation. You can ask a question or make a statement, and you will receive an immediate reply. This saves you from staring into the screen of your smartphone for minutes or even hours hoping for a reply, in much the same way you might stare into a pot of water on the stove waiting for it to boil.

Sadly, many people today, young and old, do not know or have forgotten how to make a phone call. We know this from the number of unanswered questions and rumors that float about on the Internet.

There are a growing number of unfortunate people who pose questions on websites, Facebook or other social media platforms, questions which are usually greeted only by more questions from other people who do not make phone calls. Good news – there’s a better way!

As an experiment last week, The Times-Gazette made a phone call. We resorted to this drastic measure after we began hearing from multiple sources that once again rumors – sometimes spread in the form of “whisper campaigns” – were circulating about Shaffer Park.

Amazingly, it didn’t take long for phone conversations between The Times-Gazette, Hillsboro Safety and Service Director Todd Wilkin and Shaffer Park Manager Bruce Davis to quickly get the facts and dispel the annual rumor that the city had plans to close Shaffer Park or change its management. We reported the facts online Friday and in Saturday’s print edition.

For those who were worried, Shaffer Park is fine, baseball will be played there next year, and Bruce Davis will be the manager for as long as he wants to be. These facts all came to light because of phone calls we made.

Unfortunately, phone calls have become quite rare. I am no longer surprised, when I place a phone call, to have the person on the other end answer as though they had no idea their smartphone could connect them by voice with someone else. (Even my wife suffers occasionally from this affliction, but that’s another column.)

“Uh, hello?” I’ll hear the recipient of my call say tentatively, after they have figured out which button to push to end the strange buzzing or ringing sound that suddenly began emanating from their smartphone. In my mind I picture them holding their device at different angles somewhere around their head as they attempt to figure out how to speak into it or listen to what is coming from it.

But it’s crucial that we teach people to make phone calls again, and it’s not ridiculous to suggest that it might even be a good use of government resources to run public service announcements on how to make a phone call. It’s actually a public health issue. Making more phone calls will help alleviate the anxiety problems that certainly must be on the upswing with the decrease in phone calls.

For example, we have all noticed people posting questions on the Internet that start with, “Is it true that…?” and then finishing the sentence with a rumor or gossip they heard. Often the people posing such questions insist they are merely truth seekers – “I was only trying to get the facts!” – when in reality they are, unfortunately, only spreading the rumor to hundreds or thousands of people in the form of a question. We all know this is certainly not what anyone would intend to do on purpose.

Whereas questions and answers once went together like peaches and cream, questions today have become preferable to answers when it comes to the Internet. True, questions can be fun because by themselves they can insinuate wrongdoing where none exists, or raise unnecessary concerns, or help avoid uncomfortable truths. Answers can spoil all the fun. But this is a risk we should be willing to take.

So if we can just teach people to make more phone calls, it will cut down on the rumors that are spread and help people relax and even sleep better at night. It beats waiting anxiously for a correct answer to appear on social media, which is as rare as, well, using a smartphone to make a phone call.

Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.

Gary Abernathy Staff Columnist Abernathy Staff Columnist

By Gary Abernathy

[email protected]