Tuesday, April 24, 2007


When I was a kid in Los Angeles, someone got the novel idea of starting up what was then called "a switchboard". To use it, someone would call in, leave their phone number and someone would call back. It was random. You never knew who you would get and that's what made it kind of fun.

I used to sit in my bedroom, call the switchboard and wait to see who would call back. If I remember correctly, I spent a lot of time talking with some guy from South Africa. It was interesting to get to know him. We'd talk every few days and then like most of those things, it suddenly stopped.

It always seemed like a good idea on the surface. It was a natural outgrowth of the hippie times when it was all about instant connection and spreading love around. I think they might have had one in San Francisco, too.

I'm not so sure it's a good idea for someone to put his or her phone number out on the Internet where people have access to it all over the world. I'm not brave enough to do it. That's for sure!

Yet I do know there's a need for that kind of thing. Twenty years ago (or so), I volunteered on a Suicide and Crisis Hotline. It never ceased to amaze me how many people depended on hearing a voice on the other end of the phone, even if it was someone unknown. It was a safety net. It was a sure thing. Someone could call in the weesmas and someone would pick up the phone, willing to listen.

There was a news report yesterday about a 20-year-old kid in Mass who decided to put his phone number out on YouTube for anyone who wanted to talk. He says he just wants to "be there" for anyone who might need someone to talk to...

Needless to say, he's had thousands of phone calls from all over the world.

His heart seems to be in the right place. As he said, "Some people's own mothers won't take the time to sit down and talk with them and have a conversation. But some stranger on YouTube will. After six seconds, you're not a stranger anymore, you're a new kid I just met."

So... what do you think?




Mary said...


I think it's frightening and kind of sad.

Anyone in the world can stop by "Thailand Gal" or "Mary's View" but that's OK. We pick and choose those we want to develop a relationship with and they are dear and healthy ones.

Putting your cell phone number out there takes nerves of steel, I think, and might be a cry of some sort. It's inviting strangers in the middle of the night. Spooky.

capacious said...

His heart is definitely in the right place - that's a sweet quote. I do think he's going to get sick of all the calls and change his number, however.

Anvilcloud said...

Personally, I dislike using the phone. I let it ring half the time anyway.

meno said...

To echo Mary a bit, the phone lacks a filtering system, and it is immediate. That's why i prefer e-mail.

It sound like a sweet, but ultimately goofy idea. How id he going to handle all those calls?

thailandchani said...

Mary, I agree. These indirect ways of contacting each other are much safer in the long run. As Meno mentioned, email seems to be a better alternative to having all those unknown people calling, night and day.


Capacious, I think so, too. He can't take all those calls and he was also saying that he only has 600 minutes a month on his cell phone. Free nights and weekends.

Just the same, that will become so overwhelming that he won't have a choice but to shut it down.


Anvil, I am never comfortable making phone calls. It's truly anxiety-producing for me. If someone calls me, it's okay... but unless it's someone really close, the calls will be rather short.

The immediacy of it doesn't work for me. I like to think about my responses. For that reason, I don't do as well on the phone or with teleconferencing software like chat rooms.


Meno, it was a sweet idea.. and I really applaud him for seeing a need and taking an action to fix it, regardless of how shortsighted it might have been.




heartinsanfrancisco said...

I also think it was a sweet idea, but $6000 cell phone bills will not be sweet at all.

I don't like talking on the phone with most people, and with a few exceptions, regard it as an instrument for making arrangements. Cell phones are also not comfortable and cannot be propped on ones shoulder while doing other things.

julie said...

Truth? I do not like the phone. When I am home, I am HOME.

I use it, and have even been grateful to it as I reached out through it, or was able to get instant information.

But I prefer face-to-face, or email (like the record, time to think carefully through thoughts, etc.). I used to like letters. :)

I spend a lot of time Out and Doing Things with other people, working, volunteering, etc. Maybe...I just need quiet with the kids (so to speak) when at home.

And oh, as for the "phone at home" comment? I have a cell. It live in my car's glove box. It's for car or out-and-about emergencies only. I don't care for cell phones that much. They come in handy, and I've been grateful, but again? Urgent or emergent only.

That said---and said to provide context for my POV---I'd never put my phone number out there. But this young man sounds like his heart is, indeed, in the right place and good for him. I think it's awesome. He's reaching out, making himself a part, instead of apart. This is his way of doing it.

julie said...

P.S. Hit enter too fast. Sorry.

My support stated, it's a big job. For the suicide and crisis line I worked on, we went through extensive screening and training---for good reason.

There are a lot of people out there, some of whom are in great need and I wonder...does a 20 year old boy have all he needs for each person? That's a lot to ask of a young man.

I know I often advocate for organization, and it's not always needed. I suport this individual effort, but I also know how big it can grow.

QT said...

I think it is kind of a lark, and agree that he will probably quit after phone call #250.

Tabba said...

I think he was trying to do something good. The plan, ultimately, is a rather flawed. But good for him for wanting to reach out to those who might not have anyone else.
Again, good intentions....but a bit flawed.
The only thing I have to say in regards to email vs. telephone is this: I have gotten into many a misunderstanding because of emails. It is so hard to read someone's tone, symantics, etc in an email. While it might be "easier" it can be viewed as sort of impersonal.

MsLittlePea said...

I think that's beautiful. Sounds like someone with a good heart. I hope no one with bad intentions calls. I don't think I would be very supportive of my(hypothetical) son doing something like that just because of that reason.

I, too, hate the phone. But I'm always the one who gets called for comfort or encouragement during a crisis by my friends and family. So although I HATE being the phone for longer than 15 minutes, I take it as a compliment and pick up.

Pam said...

Generous idea with the possibility of bad results. Too many nasty people out there.

boogiemum said...

I used to work at a domestic violence shelter and at times would run the hotline. Many a times I would get suicidal callers and have to arrange for police to trace the call and go assist the person. I think that any extra help that someone can get out there is great. It is definitely needed. My concern would be that this 20-year old may not be properly trained and could end up doing some harm instead of good. (ie saying the wrong thing or not arranging the proper needed professional help) He also could be putting himself in danger. One time I had a caller put a "hit" out on me!

slouching mom said...

I heard about this guy. More power to him, but am I glad it's not me receiving those calls!

liv said...

I think it's kind of sweet of the guy, but I would worry about getting in over my head with problems that are just not manageable for a 20 year old or anyone else for that matter.

Also, my time's a bit limited and I'm already getting sniped at for not returning calls regularly enough at the studio. Bad business owner. Bad.

jen said...

ah, idealism.

it's like the free hug guy. it all matters somehow.

Caro said...

It all points to our need to feel connected no matter how refined we have become from a technological point of view. That's what I think the phone affords most people: the opportunity to create, if only for a fleeting moment, some kind contact. I like that this guy wants to give something of himself. He'll figure out how kooky it is in time. No matter what the outcome is, he'll never be the same...

Penny. said...

I love the phone kid. Not entirely safe.. but, using a cell phone helps. Considering what a world we live in.. especially for youth, where everything is practiced, conceived of, learned, visited, heard, watched, communicated, investigated, planned, organized on-line... I think his response was natural to the human condition.

He needed something real.

And, so he called out for others who might have been feeling the same way.

The overwhelming response was heartwarming, scary and sad.