Bridging Distance: Discovering the Joys of Audio-Messaging

Bridging Distance: Discovering the Joys of Audio-Messaging May 22, 2024

bridging distance
{Photo by Jose de Lago for Scopio; bridging distance)

A friend I’ve known for 25 years, who lives on the other side of the country, invited me to communicate in a new way—by audio text. At first, she would send a 5 to 8-minute message as she paused in her day, telling me about a recent excursion she’d taken, or something she’d written. And I would respond by typing out a traditional text. I was reluctant to adopt the new practice, being that I’m generally taciturn. But after a few weeks, I ventured my first message. I’m hooked!

In a time when people report increasing loneliness, I wonder if audio-texting could allow people to connect with one another more easily. At first I was skeptical since I’m disenchanted with social media and have never liked FaceTime or Zoom. Yet in a number of ways, audio-texting feels joyful and authentic.

One of the joys is how audio conveys a sense of placement. Often my friend and I send messages from outdoors. I hear the birds of her state and she hears the birds of mine. I might hear the sound of wind; she might hear chickens, or cars driving past. Often we end up describing where we’re located—what we see, what’s blooming, how the weather feels around us. Phone conversations have always conveyed a sense of place that texting and messaging/chatting do not. But something about the one-sidedness of audio messages evokes the descriptive. Additionally, audio-messaging allows me to hear the emotion in my friend’s voice. It has an immediacy.

bridging distance
{Photo by Camille Dellerie for Scopio; bridging distance}

Reflection, Intimacy, Connection

Leaving a thoughtful audio text requires some reflection, and this is one of my favorite aspects of the practice.  Since I don’t wish to hem-and-ha through an audio message, I give forethought to what I’ll say. This bit of reflection helps me understand what I’m feeling, or what is most significant in my day, in my life, at that time. Among the best parts of audio messaging is how it forces me to slow down. It helps me not only make time for connection, but to get at the essence of things. My friend says it makes her better at story-telling.

I’ve heard how challenging it is these days for people to schedule friend time, even phone dates; and I can relate. Busier living may be the culprit, or just wanting our options open—not wanting to be tied down. I relish an open calendar and am increasingly reluctant to schedule things. But with audio-texting, I feel I’m having a conversation or meet-up that doesn’t have to be scheduled.

How is audio-texting different than voicemail? In key ways, I find. Calling to leave a voicemail means the person may feel obligated to pick up. And if they do, we may feel obligated to engage. All of this discourages us from calling in the first place, especially if we have a small window of free time. On the other hand, if the friend doesn’t pick up and we leave a voicemail that’s several minutes long, we can clog up their inbox.

This may sound like so much overthinking. But if connecting with people was easy, loneliness would not be epidemic and people would not bemoan how hard it is to establish connections with friends. Leaving someone an audio text can be as simple or elaborate as needed. Maybe it’s a time to share heartfully how one is doing; maybe it’s a quick opportunity to let someone know they’re loved.

My best friend Brother Martin was a Trappist monk with no phone in his room, so I would leave long voicemails on his office phone that he’d pick up late in the evening. The last voicemail he left for me, I saved, though I had no idea it would be his last (Martin died in 2021). It is a treasure. Through voicemails we sent back and forth over years, Martin and I shared a bit of everything. They kept us feeling close even if weeks or months passed between our visits. Audio messages convey a kind of intimacy and tone that typed messages cannot convey.  Audio-messaging conveys emotion. Perhaps, give it a try.

Wren, winner of a 2022 Independent Publishers Award Bronze Medal

Winner of the 2022 Independent Publisher Awards Bronze Medal for Regional Fiction; Finalist for the 2022 National Indie Excellence Awards. (2021) Paperback publication of Wren a novel. “Insightful novel tackles questions of parenthood, marriage, and friendship with finesse and empathy … with striking descriptions of Oregon topography.” —Kirkus Reviews (2018) Audiobook publication of Wren.

About Tricia Gates Brown
Tricia Gates Brown is an everyday theologian working as a writer/editor in Oregon's Willamette Valley, mainly editing and co-writing books for the National Parks Service and Native tribes. After completing an MA in theology then a PhD from the University of St. Andrews in 2000, she continued to pursue her studies—energetically self-educating in theology, spirituality, and the emotional life. She is also an Ordained Deacon in the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon. Tricia is an art quilter, potter, and novelist. Her art can be viewed at . You can read more about the author here.
"Thank you for your reflection. I will use it in leading a Centering Prayer meeting ..."

Beyond the Fray: Meditation and the ..."
"I'm so glad you looked it up. Isn't it hauntingly beautiful? I resonate with that ..."

Happiness is Bite-Sized: Finding Joy in ..."
""Recover loudly" sounds like a good way to give hope to people who are suffering ..."

Recovering Loudly: On Sharing Stories For ..."
"I've often heard the phrase "beginner's mind". To me it seems to denote an openness ..."

Approaching Wisdom With Emptiness: Two Characters ..."

Browse Our Archives