One unexpected positive from the current pandemic is that many people are being forced to re-evaluate what is important in their lives, fast. In being kept physically apart from our loved ones, we are seeking creative ways to stay connected with each other. From 20-person video chats to the humble phone call, lockdown is making us better listeners, conversationalists and friends.
Calling someone on the phone just for a catchup is something most people associate with their teenage years. A 30-minute conversation would roll into a three-hour chin wag, about everything and anything, but nothing in particular; it was the simple joy of sitting in that private space created for you and your friend to share your thoughts, hopes and concerns, without having to boil it down to a 280-character tweet. As people’s lives get busier and work takes precedence, long chats over the phone become rarer, which is especially true for the current generation.
Before lockdown, 75% of millennials believed that phone calls were too time-consuming. With instant messaging becoming a feature of virtually all social media platforms – Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, you name it – calling someone on the phone becomes a commitment and a far greater demand on the other person’s time. But texting people is obviously a far less intimate experience, and if you aren’t able to see that person physically for a while, this could impact on the quality of your relationships.
The phone network O2 uncovered similar findings with this age group. Not only did 18 to 24-year-olds deem phone calls a burden, but 35% felt anxious about making them and 22% hadn’t made a call in the past month. Since lockdown has begun, this has changed. O2 reported that 36% of the same people commented that they had now lost their anxiety around placing calls and an impressive 90% of them are making and receiving more calls. This isn’t surprising, given that in-person conversations with friends are a thing of the past for now, and it’s a rising trend being seen across the globe. In the US for example, Verizon said it was handling 800 million wireless calls every week, more than double reported on their busiest day of the year: Mother’s Day.
By calling our loved ones more frequently, it will hopefully teach us or remind us of those all-important conversational skills that could have been eroded by the hustle and bustle of modern living and the popularity of uber-efficient messaging apps. Before, asking how everyone is doing on a group WhatsApp may have fulfilled your socialising quota, but now we have the time and the chance to listen to our friends down the phone. Calling when you say you will, not speaking over your friend and being acutely aware of when you’ve been talking too much are three valuable communication skills learned from when you’re on the phone. When lockdown ends and we can converse face to face again, hopefully we can bring these qualities with us.