REFLECTIONS

The real reason people text rather than call

Messaging gives them control and allows them to compose themselves

In Summary

• Phone calls is a call requires skill to effectively deal, and on the fly, with anything

A matatu driver as he was caught on camera texting while driving
A matatu driver as he was caught on camera texting while driving
Image: EUTYCAS MUCHIRI

I got the idea for this article from another article on Forbes.com titled: ‘Millennials Hate Phone Calls, And They Have A Point.’

I didn’t think “they have a point” before I started reading the Forbes article, and still didn’t after I’d read the piece. What can I say is: I’m not a fan of texting. But in the interest of fairness, I thought, why not look into this subject a little further.

So I did some research, read more articles on why Millennials prefer messaging and can’t stand phone calls, and voila, I stumbled onto the real reason people hate calls.

 

I say people because it turns out it’s not just Millennials who are into this ‘avoid-calls-at-all-costs’ habit. Some in Generation X and Generation Z are in on it, too. Gen X precedes Millennials and Gen Z comes after the Millennials, and together this generation combo of people who prefer messaging rather than calling, or as I call them, ‘text-only people’, have come to be known collectively as Generation Mute: young and young-ish people, who spend most of their time on their mobile phones sending messages but hardly ever take or make calls.

Before we get to the why they hate calls, let me clear up something. I’m not against texting. I text… sometimes. I get texted. My issue is with texting that excludes phone calls.

Now that that’s cleared up, the following are the reasons text-only people, aka Generation Mute, give as to why they hate phone calls. I call them excuses. Reason number one is phone calls are time-consuming. Yes, they are, if you don’t know how to effectively communicate ‘could we wrap this up, please’ through speech.

Second reason given is calls are disruptive. Especially when one is busy, they derail you from this busyness. Yes, again, but that’s what the off button is for. Switch phone off = no disruption.

Number three was phone calls are invasive because they demand an instant response. I didn’t get what the problem is with this but on reading further, I did. Apparently text-only people feel that calls leave you little time to compose yourself, making them feel vulnerable in terms of how they come across and what they’re going to say.

Aha! I said.

It’s not so much that calls are time consuming or disruptive. The real reason Generation Mute hate phone calls is a call requires skill to effectively deal, and on the fly, with anything. Messaging takes that requirement away. With a text, you get to edit what you say, you get to control, curate only the aspects of you’d like seen (how you come across). But more importantly, texting makes it possible to avoid conflict, hiding behind a screen so you don’t have to respond if you don’t want to.

 

‘Messaging is making personal relationships friction-free,’ says Sherry Turkle, Professor of the Social Studies of Technology, MIT. She adds, ‘But life is not supposed to be friction-free… You need to know how to navigate through that friction.’

Texting is here to stay. But what is this text-only no-calls fear of talking on the phone doing to our very human need to make deep connections, and our unique human ability to speak?