I am going to start a new tag for Etiquette. I think manners are important, even in the digital age!
It’s become a mantra of tech-involved 20- and 30-somethings (and even teenagers) that you should only call when it’s an emergency, otherwise texting is preferred. But what about voicemails? Even with Google Voice transcribing them, and iPhones making them terribly easy to find and listen to, should you ever leave one?
The truth is, no matter what kind of message you leave, some people will just never listen to their voicemails, period. Even if you call them five times and leave three voicemails, they’re just not going to do it, and they’re not going to change for you. The expectation is that if it’s important, you’ll either text, so they’ll read it when they get back to their phone, or call again and catch them when they’re available. For these people, you should never leave a voicemail. (It’s nearly impossible to change someone else’s behavior, so let’s focus on you.)
For everyone else that’s not VM-phobic, it depends on your message. Can it be contained within a text message or email? By that, I don’t mean can the message be physically presented within 160 characters, I mean can the tone of your voice be conveyed in pure text. If you’re distraught, can you correctly impart that feeling on the listener? If you’re giving an urgent message, or a wistful goodbye, or a lonely “just seeing how you’re doing”, does that come across in written form? If not, use voicemail. It might take longer for the recipient to get to your message, but the emotional content makes it worth the wait.
But if you can, stick to texts. It saves time for both parties and does the job adequately well for a good chunk of the time. The only caveat I would give is that if it’s a person you haven’t physically spoken to for a while, that you should find the time and connect, even if it’s just by leaving a voice message. There’s no sense letting a relationship die just because you were too lazy to actually open your mouth and speak.