Despite the cell phone revolution, people are talking on the telephone less and less. The phones are increasingly being used for texting and for their other functions instead of calling people in real time and talking to them. This is true of the younger generations especially, leading to conflicts with their parents and grandparents who complain that “you never call.” So says this article:
A generation of e-mailing, followed by an explosion in texting, has pushed the telephone conversation into serious decline, creating new tensions between baby boomers and millennials — those in their teens, 20s and early 30s.
Nearly all age groups are spending less time talking on the phone; boomers in their mid-50s and early 60s are the only ones still yakking as they did when Ma Bell was America’s communications queen. But the fall of the call is driven by 18- to 34-year-olds, whose average monthly voice minutes have plunged from about 1,200 to 900 in the past two years, according to research by Nielsen. Texting among 18- to 24-year-olds has more than doubled in the same period, from an average of 600 messages a month two years ago to more than 1,400 texts a month, according to Nielsen.
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.”
The bias against unexpected phone calls stems in good part from the way texting and e-mail have conditioned young people to be cautious about how they communicate when they are not face to face, experts say.
Deborah Tannen, a linguistics professor at Georgetown University who studies how people converse in everyday life, said older generations misinterpret the way younger people use their cellphones. “One student told me that it takes her days to call her parents back and the parents thought she was intentionally putting them off,” she said. “But the parents didn’t get it. It’s the medium. With e-mails, you’re at the computer, writing a paper. With phone calls, it’s a dedicated block of time.”
I am not young, but my sensibility agrees with that. I don’t like to talk on the telephone. It seems like an imposition on people who are not expecting my call. I usually don’t mind it when people call me–that is, members of my family or job-related folks–but calls from people I don’t know really can be significant interruptions of a usually busy day. I much prefer communicating via e-mail. (To prove that I am not young but old, I haven’t picked up the habit of texting.) Are any of you the same way?