Intimate or irritating: are voice notes killing the phone call?

I lay on my bedroom carpet looking at the blue of the ceiling, feeling like I was in a teen movie. My phone buzzed and I picked it up to respond to my crush’s last text – except this time it wasn’t a text, but a voice note, a short audio file you send via Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp. It was the first time I’d heard his voice – it was flat, low and attractive. He asked me how my day had gone. My stomach fluttered because I knew this meant he wanted to get closer to me, yet I also freaked out because there was so much pressure to get my response right.

At first, I ignored the switch in communication and started typing out a message, because I hate my voice – the way I can hear my nerves prickle through my speech, the high pitch of my intonation and the number of times I say “like”. But don’t voice notes feel so much more intimate? Hearing the subtleties of the other person’s speech, as if they were whispering in your ear – and I wanted to get closer to him. So I focused on getting comfy, and pushed the record button. In response to his “How was your day?” I started telling him about the bike I had just got. “It hurts so much on your vulva. I only lasted about 10 minutes before I limped off.”

His response was awkward. “Yeah … I can’t say much about, er, women’s engineering down there … The seats are probably built for a male anatomy…”

“Wow, say that again,” I replied in another voice note, in a mock sultry voice.

He didn’t reply.

I recorded another note. “I didn’t actually think you were being sexual then,” I began, a slight breathlessness hanging off each word. “I was joking cos you sounded so formal, you know?”

Around 200 million voice mails are sent every month
Around 200 million voice mails are sent every month. Photograph: Amit Lennon/The Guardian

On and on I went; it was excruciating. I should have deleted the recording but I was so panicked I forgot I could do that. I imagined him raising his eyebrows on the other end of the line. Playing my note back…

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