WhatsApp voice notes: This is what our obsession REALLY says about us

Millennials are a funny bunch. We have an irrational fear of boredom, a disproportionate love for avocado, and now, an incrementing fondness for leaving uninterrupted voice notes on WhatsApp.

Walking down the road you’re bound to pass by any number of people talking into their phone or into the little microphone on their earphones as they march along. However, though you might be fooled to believe otherwise, odds are they’re not actually talking with anybody at all, they’re talking at someone. And therein lies the difference. Therein lies... The voice note.

It seems slightly paradoxical that we could feel such affection for this form of communication when the act of leaving an “old school voice message” (the kind that can only be accessed by calling 171) is now met with vehement, all-encompassing revulsion. Nonetheless, voice notes seem to show that modern society has one distinct preference: talking at people, not with people.

Is it because we are a bunch of egocentric, narcissistic snowflakes who can’t deal with the instant retorts and feedback given by the person with whom we are conversing? Or maybe it’s just that we like the way this medium of instant communication allows us to convey expression, tone, sentiment and context effectively, in a way that written messages can’t...

Voice notes give us the ability to hear our own voices. This “listen back” function once again feeds our inner narcissism

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The pros

Talking with people means you have to subject yourself to disjointing interruptions, awkward silences and a decimal level not necessarily in accordance with your preferences.

Voice messages, unlike text messages, leave less room for misinterpretation. Tone can be deciphered more easily in a voice note. We can tell instantly whether words are conveying sarcasm or scorn or jibes.

Voice messages are also great for when the person with whom you want to communicate is living overseas in a different time zone. However, that’s not to say that friends located a mere stone’s throw away from one another can’t embrace this form of communication; indulging in their relative egos via self-directed monologue filled with whatever musings, revelations and mind farts they so choose.

Voice notes give us the ability to hear our own voices. This “listen back” function once again feeds our inner narcissism (“eugh, is that how I actually sound?”) and on a more introspective level, understand how our words might be construed.

Voice notes, as opposed to phone calls, give the receiver concrete evidence to hold people accountable for unkept promises: “so don’t try to pretend that you didn’t say you’d meet me this weekend, I have aural evidence that you did, you swine!”.

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But above all, the main allure of voice notes surely comes down to it being incredibly practical; a message that might have taken one-two minutes to type out in a flurry of thumb tapping, takes at most 20 seconds through the power of voice. Simples.

Has this modern phenomenon unspoken guidelines? Is there a certain “voice etiquette” that we should all be aware of?

The cons

Some individuals have ditched texting altogether, opting for a strict voice-note only communication regime. This might not always be welcome, like when you’re trying to organise your weekend plans every-so-discreetly whilst sitting in an office meeting, or indeed, when on the toilet. In both scenarios, listening to audio is not always appropriate/ hygienic.

It’s worth mentioning that voice messages should be approached with a certain level of caution. It’s all fun and games until you realise five hours too late that you accidentally sent a voice message that was meant for your friend (it gives an explicit account of recent sexcapades on a raunchy date) into your family WhatsApp group. It's also not really an appropriate way to address your disgruntled concerns should you find yourself less than satisfied with an experience with, say, your dog groomer, for example…

Voice notes etiquette

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Has this modern phenomenon unspoken guidelines? Is there a certain “voice etiquette” that we should all be aware of?

Yes. Your voice notes should not last longer than 4-5mins per recording. And consider separating your recordings according to topics. This prevents the pre- "oh here were go another 20 min recording” dread, and also removes the propensity for “white noise” airtime as you think of what other points of information and introspection you wanted to include.

"Over and out"

At with that we invite you to sit back, relax and enjoy a spot of curated verbal volleyball banter. We hope you enjoy this newfound ability to effectively communicate a level of intimacy and articulation from afar, but a word of warning: just be sure to double-check where the recording is headed for, before you press “send”.


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