This may come as a shock to our friends under 30, but there once was a time when telephones were plugged into the wall. They sat on the hall table, on top of the telephone directory (Google it) and when you dialled someone’s number, it was on the understanding that neither of you could actually see each other.
Hence, it was gloriously possible to sit in your dressing gown with unwashed hair and breakfast in your teeth, chatting away to whomever it may be, without a care in the world.
Then clever people came along and invented clever things like camera phones and Facetime and Skype, and the dressing gown phone call was over (for the most part). Nowadays, even if you think you’re having one of those old-fashioned telephone conversations - the type where your interlocutor can’t see you - there’s always the potential for things to go awry.
Just ask British YouTuber Lucia Keskin, who somehow, accidentally, managed to Skype BBC News during a Brexit interview. For a few wonderful, fleeting seconds - during which Brexit looked to have reached peak farce - her Skype profile picture overlaid footage of the journalist Bojan Pancevski earnestly explaining something concerning the Withdrawal Agreement. In the image, her tongue poked out playfully, just above her nickname, which is “Chi”.
No-one, including her, seems sure how precisely this happened. She has explained, however, that she had been lined up to speak about something else and, having been cut off, rang back just before she was due to go live - only to find her incoming call broadcast to the nation.
AS IF I SKYPED BBC NEWS WHEN THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT BREXIT IM HOWLING pic.twitter.com/mkUcQqjqNK— chi (@chiwithaC) January 30, 2019
In one sense or another, we’ve all been there. Because ultimately smartphones are smarter than we are, and we can’t always seem to control them. Which helps explain some of the following...
1. The accidental naked call
You’ve erroneously switched on Facetime, when what you meant to do was not switch on Facetime at all. This is embarrassing because a) you’re in your underwear and b) you are speaking to your boss. You’ll never be able to look them in the eye again, either digitally or in real life.
2. The revealing background detail
You’re sitting fully clothed (you’ve learned your lesson, thank you) and having a conversation via Skype. So why, given the effort you’ve made to brush your hair, is your grandmother looking at you strangely? Check behind you and see what’s in the background. That’s right, it’s the decorative plate she gave you last Christmas - which you’re using as a litter tray for the cat.
3. The (uninvited) guest appearance
Working from home comes with its hazards. No-one wants to be the next Professor Robert Kelly, who, speaking on BBC News about South Korea two years ago, was joined by his toddler and baby. What comedy! What unexpected joy! For all of us, that is. Possibly less so for him. Never work with children or animals in the house.
Professor Robert Kelly is joined by his kids live on air. pic.twitter.com/WuK1BY9OVL— London Updates (@LondonUpdates) 10 March 2017
4. The (in)convenience call
Never, ever, ever take your phone to the loo and accidentally switch on your camera phone. Or non-accidentally (and we can all hear the echo, even if they video is turned off). No-one wants to see, hear or otherwise be party to whatever you’re up to in there.
5. The message you didn’t mean to leave
The chances are if you have a parent who uses (or misuses) WhatsApp, they’ll have grown confused at some point and unwittingly left you a voice message. If you’re lucky, all you’ll hear is them ordering some pork chops from the butcher. If you’re unlucky, you’ll hear them complaining about a gift you’ve just bought them, or slagging off one of your children. Which might put a stop to any calls at all - video or otherwise.