Ask Amelia: Must one return missed calls?

Dear Amelia,

Is it true that if someone gives you a missed call, you don’t have to ring them back? I operate on the policy that I’m only expected to return a call if someone has left a message, because otherwise I assume they just called to chat at that moment. Is that right, or have I been blindly rude and inconsiderate?

Many thanks, 

Alexandra Bell

Dear Ms Bell,

As a rule, try not to feel guilty about anything. It is not kind to the complexion.

However, you raise an interesting question. Proper mobile telephone etiquette is still an area in which people operate on their own assumptions, and it would be pragmatic to start setting down some shared guidelines.

I think we can start by acknowledging that many of us in this fast-paced day and age simply cannot find the time to check our voicemail. Comedian Andrew Lawrence’s nearly winning joke at the Edinburgh Festival this summer seems instructive in this regard: “I admire these phone hackers. I think they have a lot of patience. I can’t even be bothered to check my OWN voicemails.”

Andrew Lawrence: too lazy to return missed calls, or just unable to hear ringtones through all his hair?

While I deplore phone-hacking of any kind, as faithful readers of the DLR will know from my previous column, Mr Lawrence has put his finger on a modern malaise. While three seconds skim-reading a text message is perfectly acceptable, it seems that 45 seconds listening to a rambling voicemail is considered a thorough waste of our precious time on this earth.

To get to the point, as I know that you seek clear and firm advice on this matter: No, you do not have to call someone back if you have received a missed call from them. If it is important they will send you a text message or email in addition. If they have not done so then you are at liberty to assume that they were accidentally calling you from their pocket or they had absolutely nothing of importance to say.

I advise you to not waste a second’s thought on a missed call and to devote your time to something more fulfilling, like reading my column on the DLR. If they want to speak to you then they will be sure to call you again.



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