Weather Updates

Justine Fedak on why she’s picking up the phone again

Justine Fedak daughter Ally

Justine Fedak and daughter Ally

storyidforme: 46933637
tmspicid: 17391558
fileheaderid: 7840280

Updated: March 31, 2013 7:10PM

I’m not sure when I stopped calling people and began to prefer text messaging. But I’ve realized that I don’t really use the phone anymore. And if I miss a call, I don’t rush to check my voicemail. I assume if it’s important, the person will text me.

I’m certain my father would be astonished that I’m not addicted to the phone. When I was a teenager, he was constantly telling me, “Get off the phone!” Constant communication was a must. I would leap at every ring, anticipating new information that would ensure I was connected to the pulse of my high school gossip. It was essential, like water and air. I’d hide under the covers of my bed, whispering to my friends. I have to confess: Many nights, I fell asleep with the phone to my ear.

My father had one of the earliest cellphones. I excitedly carried it around in case I needed to be contacted or contact someone. At that point in time, the phone was about the excitement of connecting with the other person and exchanging information. And you always learned phone etiquette to be certain you were well-mannered. I was supposed to answer the phone as follows: “Fedak residence. Justine speaking.” You identified yourself clearly and with confidence. This was expected.

Now, everyone texts each other. And I marvel at how many times I receive a text that’s from a number that I don’t know. It’s usually a message that I’m also not totally certain is for me. And sometimes, the message is unnerving. For example: “Hey, you’re lookin’ good lately. Did you get the tickets? Can’t wait to see you,” and “You’re one of my favorite people. What’s it gonna take to get lunch with you?” Getting texts like this makes you stop and wonder. You ask a friend, “Do you know this 847 number? Could this be so-and-so? Who the heck is this, anyhow?”

It seems we have no rules when it comes to text messaging. Yet somehow, we think the phone is more intimate. But is it? I’ve gotten to wondering lately if we have it all backward. A phone call now requires a commitment. You have to think ahead about talking, about sharing something. But a text, while seemingly more casual, quick and simple, is actually recorded. It’s the written word. You can keep it. Print it. Resend it. Show it to other people on your phone. And we often send things without much concern. Sometimes, we send things we shouldn’t have. How is that less intimate?

I’d like to make a suggestion. Let’s start calling each other more. Let’s talk, listen, hear the sound of each other’s unique voices. And when we do choose to text, let’s sign our names, address the message to one another and connect like we mean it.

Maybe I’m suggesting this just because I get text messages that I don’t understand, and it’s creepy. And while I do love the quick text myself — and I love when my Allycat, at 8 years old, sends me text messages full of emoticons — I have to admit that I’d love to know who’s been texting me. Or maybe I’ve just realized that real connection is face-to-face — or at least voice-to-voice.


Justine Fedak has donated her fee for writing this column to the Noah’s Arc Foundation.

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.