Phones aren’t phones—call anyway!

It may not be official, but if you’ve been suspicious that people in their twenties and younger aren’t picking up their phones, you’re right.  There’s a ton of anecdotal evidence to support this (such as this recent ZDnet article).  I started really thinking about this two years ago when I was driving to a twenty-something friend’s house.

I was running late (that’s L.A. traffic for you) and called ahead to say so.  I was a good boy and used my Bluetooth headset.   I also knew the friend was at her house, available to pick up the phone.

I got sent to voicemail.

One minute later I get a text message—a TEXT MESSAGE!—asking where I’m at and when I think I’ll get there.

I left a voicemail and got another text asking to tell her when I was closer.  At which point I left a new message asking her TO CALL because I’m driving and unable to safely read text messages.

I understand the need/desire to filter your messages, not interrupt what you’re doing, and just not deal directly with every demand on your time.  However, we need to remember the importance of verbal communication…and better yet, face-to-face/video.

Thank God for the Android and the iPhone.  But this isn’t just a smartphone phenomenon.  This is a general workspace issue.  I shouldn’t bust on anyone (“Let he who hasn’t opted to send an email when they really should have called throw the first stone.”), but most communication tools have made it too easy for people to not interact with people.

I find forcing myself to make video calls for most issues helps me connect and resolve issues much faster than otherwise.  I have trouble making consistent use of IM, but that probably has something to do with being closer to 40 than 30.  IM does have a lot of uses, but I haven’t found project resolution to be one of its strengths.

I also wonder how increasingly available video may effect this trend.  Is there a chance that people might leapfrog voice-only calls and go straight from IM to video?  We tend to at our offices.  In fact, we often use IM to ask availability to get onto VSee for a quick consult.  I further wonder if there will be levels of use depending on the relationships:  acquaintances only see social media, coworkers and friends-taken-for-granted may or may not be relegated to IM, and close compadres to video?

I don’t think the voice-only call will ever die, but it may become rare outside use with Bluetooth while driving.

Comments ( 2 )
  • admin
    Paul says:

    I also wonder why I and others might choose sms / texting over voice and video.
    Here’s a suggestion – sms-ing / texting doesn’t require the same negotiation of social protocols and the demand of personal ‘confrontation’. Does video imply even more of this? More cues to interpret and respond to. I know that practice also has a big impact. More practice leads to more confidence and less sense of confusion as to what is appropriate.

  • admin
    anne says:

    This Brainyard commentary also suggests that video chatting is more appropriate for communications requiring nuance or negotiation rather than the brief and specific information that makes up a larger number of our communications: “Meet you in 15 min.”, “Call me when you get this”, “I need XX file sometime today”

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