Phone drinking

You sometimes hear about “phone sex”, but you don’t usually hear about “phone drinking”. In fact, this may be the first time you’ve ever heard the phrase. I had never heard of it until I thought of it today.

I’m using “phone drinking” to describe the hypothetical practice of calling up a friend and hanging out over the phone while you both gradually get drunk. I do not describe this hypothetical practice in order to recommend it.

Rather, I’m interested in the difference between collocated and non-collocated social interaction. Some things it makes sense to do over the phone. Other things, not so much.

Going out to a bar and having a beer or two is a time-honored way for friends to bond, or to start forging a bond of friendship. And the core of that bonding experience is the establishment of trust. When you and your friend go to a bar for a drink, or do anything together that lowers your defenses, you are essentially building a trust relationship.

And I think our communication technology is still at the point where certain signals needed for building trust require physical presence. In fact, it’s not even clear yet what all of those signals are.

Many and varied physical signals can be involved in assessing the trustfulness of another person. These may include subtleties of head position, eye movement, facial muscles around the eyes, tension in the body and shoulders, timing of one’s gestures and hand movements, resonance of the voice, the smell of one’s skin, and most likely quite a few other factors that nobody has thought of yet.

All of which means that phone drinking is not going to become a thing. At least not yet.

3 Responses to “Phone drinking”

  1. Stephan Ahonen says:

    Phone drinking isn’t a thing? Oh boy do I need to introduce you to the voice servers of online gaming groups. Some of my drunkest times have been playing games with people I’ve never met in person but whose voices I know intimately.

  2. admin says:

    That is a good observation. Yet it leads to a question: Would you have been able to have had that experience without the context of shared online gaming? In a bar people drinking together don’t need any context other than the person they are talking to.

  3. Stephan Ahonen says:

    Shared social context is 100% of the thing. Bars are places to form social bonds over the common shared interest of drinking (when I quit drinking I lost touch with pretty much all of these people). Video game communities are places to form social bonds over the common shared interest of video games (ditto when my life got too busy for games).

    The reason “phone drinking” sounds weird, I think, is not because you’re missing out on the subtleties of face-to-face interaction, it’s because you’re missing out on the shared social context. You’re not drinking together unless you’re drinking…together. I can play video games as a social activity because the internet lets me play video games with people who are not physically present. This is pretty unique as far as hobbies go, like you can use the internet to *talk about*, say, knitting, but you can’t use the internet to *knit together.* If you’re not physically in a physical bar with somebody, you’re not really drinking with them and the social fuzzies that come from doing something together, even if it’s just tossing back some beers, aren’t there. If your social bond with somebody is through the shared act of drinking, just talking with them on the phone doesn’t recreate that shared act.

    Interesting note: There’s a game called “Borderlands” which you can play cooperatively, you and up to three partners against the game. The first few times I played it was with a friend. It wasn’t until I tried to play it alone that I noticed that the game itself is actually terrible. I had a ton of fun playing it… With my friend, but literally all of the enjoyment I got from it was from having a shared activity to form a social bond over with my friend.

    Ditto with drinking. Drinking by itself isn’t that fun (source: the reason I quit drinking). But drinking with a friend is tons of fun, for the same reason Borderlands was fun with a friend, because you’re sharing an activity with somebody.

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