TECH

Facebook Is Killing Phone Numbers, And That's OK

Who even talks on the phone anymore?

Social media may consume more and more of our precious time, but in at least one regard, sites like Facebook and tools like Gmail have freed us from one of the more tedious tasks of modernity: keeping track of phone numbers.

In fact, Facebook is betting that phone numbers will disappear in 2016.

Good freaking riddance. 

David Marcus, a Facebook vice president who runs the social network's Messenger app, listed the death of the phone number as one of five trends for 2016 in a blog post last week.

"Just like the flip phone is disappearing, old communication styles are disappearing too," Marcus writes. Facebook is hoping that chat apps like Messenger become our de facto address books.

I've been betting this would happen for a long time, since it's a great explanation for why I've been so terrible at updating my address books -- both the paper and virtual kinds -- for so long. But really, this trend just reinforces my tendency toward disorganization and my outsized dependency on distracting, life-sucking applications.

Thanks to the Internet, if I want to reminisce with the woman who was my best friend in summer camp when I was 11, I can just message her on Facebook Messenger. If I need to get in touch with the public relations team at Facebook, I can quickly search my Gmail for a good email address. If I want to gossip with my old work BFF, I just send a DM on Twitter.

Thanks to the ease with which you can find someone on Facebook, Twitter, Google or whatever, we never have to frantically scribble phone numbers down in tiny address books or save them somewhere on our personal hard drives and live in fear of losing them. Or lug giant Rolodexes from one cubicle to the next. Do any of you have a Rolodex anymore?

Who even knows anyone's number?

Actually, to take it even further, has anyone actually picked up a ringing phone in the past year? Of course not! You're not monsters. You send calls to voice mail and, like everyone else, you never listen to the voice mail.

It took me two years to remember my own cell number. I still occasionally get it wrong. (Yet I still know my best friend from 7th grade's phone number by heart.)

But there are only a few phone numbers people have actually memorized these days: their own, their significant other's and their mom's, according to an informal poll of my colleagues conducted this morning.

There's one huge danger to this new freedom -- it locks us into all these tech services forever. You'll never leave Facebook if it's the best source for staying in touch with everyone. 

And of course, that's the business plan. 

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