With mobile phone use constantly on the rise, it might surprise you to know that the number of voice calls being made from the devices is actually going down. With millions of apps available for just about everything these days, calls no longer seems to be their primary purpose.
Among the world’s most popular apps for 2021, you’ll find Facebook and Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Snapchat, all of which allow users to send direct, in-app messages to their contacts.
The millennial generation has been nicknamed “Generation Mute”, because they prefer to message, text, and Snap rather than pick up the phone. But what’s the rationale behind this? Is there a reason beyond the fact that digital means of communication may have diminished our social skills?
Studies show that the decrease in phone calls could actually be linked to the state of our mental health. Keep reading to learn more about telephonophobia and find out the top seven reasons millennials give for not answering their phones.
Why do millennials not pick up their phones?
The mobile phone trade-in company BankMyCell recently carried out a survey to find out why the millennial generation hates talking on the phone. They collected data from over 1,200 respondents aged between 22-37, and from the information given, were able to draw the following conclusions:
- Calls interrupt what you’re doing. Your phone could go off at any time, and if you’re not expecting a call, chances are good that it will interrupt you in the middle of something. Messaging is more convenient for the millennial generation, as you can reply to texts in your own time.
- Calls can come off as entitled. If someone calls you out of the blue, they are assuming you have the time to stop what you’re doing and talk to them, and this may not always be the case.
- Calls can be time-consuming. There’s no way of knowing how long the call will go on for. It could only be a couple of minutes, but we all know people who could talk for hours given the chance! Millennials prefer instant methods of communication (e.g., messaging) because they are quicker and more direct.
- They are not the most efficient form of communication. It takes longer to get to your point on a call than it does via a message. Phone calls are typically chattier, whereas you can state your purpose quite clearly in an email, without pausing to make small talk first. Putting things in writing also helps ensure that nothing gets missed or forgotten about.
- Calls can be stressful. If you’re working to a tight deadline and you cannot get an answer to an important question, or you’re rushing to go somewhere and you keep getting interrupted by your phone, it’s only going to add to your stress. So, in order to finish their work on time (or enjoy a day off) many millennials put their phones on silent and ignore them until later.
- They can put you on the spot. On the phone, you don’t have time to think about your answers before you give them. If someone asks you a question over text, you can respond in your own time, and you can work on your reply until you are 100% happy with what it says. But on the phone, you are under pressure to answer straight away. This is one of the major reasons millennials prefer messages to phone calls; texting and emailing gives you time (and sometimes the confidence) to write an honest answer back.
- Calls are not always private. Complete privacy is hard to achieve when you are on the phone. If you are at work, or you share a house with other people, the chances are that someone will be able to hear at least your half of the conversation. The millennial dislike of being overheard isn’t necessarily about secrecy, but there are some things you don’t want other people to hear (phone calls with your doctor, arguments with your partner, etc.). What is more, talking on the phone is a considerable source of anxiety for some people, and knowing people are listening could make them feel even more self-conscious.
What is telephonophobia?
This fear of speaking on the telephone is called “telephonophobia”, and it’s widespread among the millennial generation. Over 80% of the respondents in the BankMyCell survey said that they have to mentally prepare themselves and summon up their courage before making a phone call.
But why is this specific anxiety so prevalent among this generation? One line of thought says that growing up surrounded by digital technology – and having the ability to text rather than being forced to talk – has had a negative effect on their communication skills.
Talking on the phone isn’t the same as talking face to face, however. According to research carried out by the well-known behavioural psychologist Dr. Albert Mehrabian in the 1970s, the majority of our communication is non-verbal. 55% of our meaning comes from our body language, while facial expressions, eye contact, and attentiveness also play a part. Over the phone, we can only go by the other person’s tone of voice.
While it’s true that this information can be lost over text, messaging does at least give you time to think about your answer and put a response together. Phone calls, especially ones you’re not expecting, can make you feel like there’s pressure on you to answer straight away.
However, while using text and messaging apps may feel like a safe solution for those experiencing telephonophobia, it might not help over the long term. Not all communication takes place digitally, and by not practicing your telephone skills from time to time, you might actually make your anxiety worse when it comes time to make an important phone call.
Want to know if a Millennial is dodging your call?
They probably are! To round this article off, here are the top five groups of people that millennials are most likely to ignore a call from:
1. Friends (29%)
2. Parents / Family (25%)
3. Work colleagues (21%)
4. Boss (15%)
5. Partner (11%)
What kinds of things can you do to improve your communication skills? Why not pick up the phone and talk to a friend about it?