Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, August 08, 2021

The explosion of digital and online communication options has resulted in nobody under 40 ever returning your phone calls.

Young people say they avoid voice calls because the immediacy of a phone call strips them of the control that they have over the arguably less-intimate pleasures of texting, e-mailing, Facebooking or tweeting. They even complain that phone calls are by their nature impolite, more of an interruption than the blip of an arriving text.

Kevin Loker, 20, a rising junior at George Mason University, said he and his school friends rarely just call someone, for fear of being seen as rude or intrusive. First, they text to make an appointment to talk. “They’ll write, ‘Can I call you at such-and-such time?’ ” said Loker, executive editor of Connect2Mason.com, a student media site. “People want to be polite. I feel like, in general, people my age are not as quick on their feet to just talk on the phone.”

This does, of course, jibe with fewer and fewer voice minutes being chewed up on cellphones, in favor of text and data. We’re moving toward a standard where our mouths are shut, but our fingers are flying.

A couple of observations from this trending:

- The group that’s stubbornly sticking to phone-chatting — generally Baby Boomers now in their mid-40s and above — are the same ones who largely abandoned the old ritual of personal letter-writing. Their social connectivity revolved around the immediacy and ease of local and long-distance phone calls; the asynchronous written word was shunted to strictly business-related matters. So now, it must feel like something of a betrayal to have to resort back to writing (texting) versus speaking in personal relationships.

- Synchronous vs. asynchronous modes of communication are at the heart of all this. When speaking with someone — either face-to-face or on the phone — you don’t have the luxury of responding at your own pace. With email, text, and IM, you generally do, even if it’s only for a few seconds. There’s a comfort level in the latter that doesn’t exist with an open line. And I think this illustrates the feeling best:

Answering a phone call requires a certain amount of psychological energy, she said. “I put it off because there’s something confrontational about someone calling you,” she said. “You have to gear up for it.”

I’d like to think that this distillation of dialogue into written snippets results in less noise and more signal. But that presumes that the content of this communication is actually improving — and since we’re talking writing about human beings here, that’s a pretty silly notion to hold.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 08/08/2021 04:44pm
Category: Internet, Society, Tech
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1 Feedback »
  1. Interesting…I guess you could lump blog comments into the same category!

    Comment by TG — 08/08/2021 @ 6:30 PM

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