Text or Phone Call?

What about you? Do you prefer a text message or a phone call? Or an e-mail? Be honest, and now we need to ask: What difference does it make?

From AP:

Statistics from the Pew Internet & American Life Project show that, these days, many people with cell phones prefer texting over a phone call. It’s not always young people, though the data indicate that the younger you are, the more likely you are to prefer texting.

And that’s creating a communication divide, of sorts – the talkers vs. the texters.

Some would argue that it’s no big deal. What difference should it make how we communicate, as long as we do so?

But many experts say the most successful communicators will, of course, have the ability to do both, talk or text, and know the most appropriate times to use those skills. And they fear that more of us are losing our ability to have – or at least are avoiding – the traditional face-to-face conversations that are vital in the workplace and personal relationships.

“It is an art that’s becoming as valuable as good writing,” says Janet Sternberg, a professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University in New York who is also a linguist.

In the most extreme cases, she’s noticed that more students don’t look her in the eye and have trouble with the basics of direct conversation – habits that, she says, will not serve them well as they enter a world where many of their elders still expect an in-person conversation, or at the very least a phone call.

On today’s college campuses, the dynamic is often different. Forget about things like “office hours,” for instance. Many professors say they rarely see students outside of class.

“I sit in my office hours lonely now because if students have a question, they email, often late at night,” says Renee Houston, an associate professor of communication studies at the University of Puget Sound in Washington state.

“And they never call, ever.”

She recalls overhearing students chuckling about the way people older than them communicate.

“My parents left me a VOICEMAIL. Can you believe it?” one said, as if voicemail had gone the way of the dinosaurs.

This doesn’t sound surprising or particularly troublesome to Lisa Auster-Gussman, who’ll be a senior this fall at the University of Richmond in Virginia. For her, there are simply particular tools she uses to communicate, depending on the recipient.

Email is for professors, yes. Phone calls and maybe the occasional text are for parents, if the parents know how to do the latter.

“But I don’t communicate much with older people. So much of my life is set up over text,” says Auster-Gussman, who sends and receives an average of about 6,000 text messages a month.


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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • No question that, in most cases, I prefer a text, simply because I can control the time I give to the communication. There are certainly times when a phone call is necessary to communicate well, but when simply sharing info, a text works just fine. And I don’t have to hang up on anyone.

  • Rick

    I am the same as Bill #1. It is a time management issue for me.

  • gingoro

    Except for family I prefer email over voice or texting. I might do texting if I were willing to pay the high cost for a smart phone and even worse the monthly bill of 60 to 70$ where I live. Back in the late 70s I got my first exposure to email on an internal IBM network and I have never stopped using email now over the internet. I carefully watch my monthly expenditure for ISP, mobile ISP, phones, TV etc. We do have cell phone on yearly prepaid, but only for use in emergencies. We sacrificed cable/satellite so as to get mobile ISP at our summer home. But them, at 72, I am a dinosaur, old, stupid and useless.
    Dave W

  • DRT

    I prefer email or text for routine communications. If it need more than that then I want to meet face to face. If face to face is impractical, a scheduled phone call.

  • RobS

    To work out real ideas, or to get to know someone, real voice-to-voice communication is essential. For just “adding to my work-list” or a “friendly reminder’ the text or email thing works fine. It also gives me a record of it so I can go back and review which is nice.

    But to solve complicated problems, discuss deeper issues, or come to better understanding in relationships, there’s nothing better than just talking.

    A lot of unemployed young people might be texting or emailing resumes, but without networking or sharing their story in a personal way, it might not be helping them get employed. Just a hypothesis, but I have seen a good bit of evidence of them looking for the job market (& other things) to come to them because they have “presence”.

  • Fred

    Dave W

    I feel the same way (“old, stupid and useless”) and I’m only 57. I use e-mail exclusively but I find myself becoming increasingly anxious if I don’t get an answer within, oh, 30 seconds. I would probably be a great texter.

  • Diane

    I prefer talking (age speaks!) but my daughter prefers texting because nobody can overhear her–I am trying to do some texting.

  • Adam

    Being a youth/children’s pastor, and 24 yrs. old, I’m fully engaged with the texting generation. The hardest part for me is when people communicate something important over text rather than call. If it’s a simple question or comment, texting is great. If you’re dealing with something hard, then call. It’s definitely true that many kids excel at texting while they can’t hold a conversation over the phone. I give my thanks to the parents in bondage to their smart phones for email. They paved the way for the new anti-social communication many kids are enacting.

  • for me it’s not just time management, but also priorities. i love texting and email because, like many others have said, i can respond when i have time. my husband and i began texting after he got his first smartphone and we realized that we can still keep in touch with each other without interrupting work or school. if one of us is in a meeting, or in class or whatever, we can still pass on info or just say hi. email is obviously better than texting for a lot of information. and it all comes to my phone these days anyway.

    but if it’s something urgent and needs to be dealt with now, call me. please. unless i’m commuting – quiet car on the train rocks!

  • Tom

    I love texting but I have no idea why. Maybe it is the introvert in me that makes the difference.

    My kids prefer text, then voice, and rarely email. But I really don’t think I fully understand how they communicate. In this digital age, texting is simply a tool for me to use in communication. For them it seems pretty close to an appendage, much like their vocal chords. Because I don’t really understand it I am hesitant to make proclamations about the positives or negatives it might have on them in the long run and I am very skeptical when I read an article with someone decrying their heavy use of texting.

  • kent

    I text, call and email. I even leave the occasion voice mail (being the dinasour that I am). Most of the time the circumstances determine the method. I enjoy talking to people, I like texting for quick questions or if the person doesn’t answer the phone. Email is more for business. Interestingly on our cell plan we lowered the minutes for our plan because we didn’t use them and were banking a ridiculous amount of rollovers.

  • Phone call.

    People are not priorities. They are people who deserve your attention as soon as possible with a human voice.

  • Texting is just another way for the phone companies to get more money out of us for using the networks we’re already paying for on our voice and data plans.

    Seriously, with my data plan I can send many more (and longer) messages via e-mail than I could with a text add-on. With the benefit that the same messages are also available at my computer in Outlook or a web-based mail platform (gmail, AOL, Hotmail, etc.)

  • Fred

    My latest phone call which I’m glad was not an e-mail. Simeon Jude, born c. 7:50, 6-6-2012. That’s #13…or is it 14?

  • DRT

    Fred, that’s a good use for a phone call, even one not previously scheduled!

  • Pat Pope

    I would prefer a text over a phone call and a Facebook message is sure to get my attention.

  • I would prefer a text to a phone call most of the time, but I prefer e-mail to texts since they are easier to interact with, keep to respond to later with a reminder, file for future reference, and so on. Texts related to a matter that requires lengthy discussion or ongoing reference are a nuisance.

  • Jon

    I use phone calls to visit, texts to ask brief questions that aren’t important, email for longer communication I want to think out.

    In most cases, texts are my default because they are immediate, guarantee brevity, and can be answered when convenient.

  • LeslieS

    Texts seem less intrusive than phone calls. I can send someone, particularly the student who work for me, a quick, non-urgent message and know they will receive it, but not worry that I’m calling when they are in class or otherwise occupied.

  • I prefer texts. I will call only if the conversation needs more attention. I even prefer Email and facebook messages before a phone call. Brief. Convenient.

  • DRT

    Scot, you need to tell us what you prefer now.