Mike Lichtenberg, 20, hates checking his voice mail.
“I’m usually pretty busy,” he said. “So when I do get a message I have to dial a bunch of numbers and listen to the annoying person telling me all these options. The whole shebang annoys me.”
The University of Maryland junior dreads retrieving messages so much that he decided to take matters into his own hands.
When his friends, family members and unknown callers can’t reach him, they are greeted by this recording:
“Hi. You have reached the Lichtenberg phone. If you are hearing this, please do not leave a message, as it is a hassle to enter my voice mail and delete the message. I will see that you have called me and I will gladly call you back. Or you can send me a text message. Thank you. Bye.”
For users like Lichtenberg, constantly in pursuit of technological efficiency, voice mail is not as revolutionary as it once was. In data prepared for USA TODAY, Vonage, an Internet phone company, says the number of retrieved voice-mail messages was down 14% in July from one year ago.
“We are moving away from it because most voice-mail users are from older generations,” Lichtenberg said.
The idea for his straightforward greeting was actually a result of his mother’s constant messaging.
“She had this massive tendency to leave me a basic, ‘Hi, it’s Mom. Call me back’ message,” he said. “I kept telling her not to but she always forgot, so one day I just made the message. She hasn’t left me any in a while.”
The data also shows that in addition to checking messages less often, users are leaving fewer messages. The number of voice-mail messages left on user accounts was down 8% during the same period.
Jacqueline Echagarruga Irimia, a finance senior at Babson College, said her mom never uses voice mail to contact her.
“She’s definitely more of a texting person,” she said. “We’re pretty good at keeping in touch that way.”
Her mother, Lourdes Humble, said voice mail has proven to be a waste of time when trying to contact Irimia. She added that text messaging is most convenient for college students because “they are not obligated to respond immediately.”
“The generation of these days tends to procrastinate more than the prior generations, but is far more advanced with technology,” she said. “Texting allows college students to put off responding. It is impersonal to text, but effective.”
In an attempt to counteract the trend, Vonage has created a transcription service that converts voice messages for delivery as email or text. The service can email a direct link to the voice-mail audio file, letting users skip several steps to listen to it.
But the fix could be too little too late for a generation that has gotten used to rejecting the practice.
“I wouldn’t even want them in my email because I get enough emails as it is,” Lichtenberg said. “If there were an easier way that I didn’t have to dial any numbers, then I might be more open to it.”
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