Why do Gen Zs and millennials hate phone calls?

Phone calls

“Phone calls, for me and many others of my generation, are reserve for the important moments, for catastrophic situations warranting a certain level of immediate panic.”

If I had to name my favourite new facet of technology, something that really changed my life, I’d have to say it was online booking services.

It means no more sitting for five or ten minutes psyching myself up to call doctors, restaurants or beauty salons, rehearsing a script of what I was going to say. There’s no more ordering takeaway over the phone and awkwardly stumbling over my words. Yes, the gradual elimination of necessary phone calls has been an absolute blessing in my life.

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I don’t know when I realised I hated talking on the phone. I’m fairly certain it was quite young (which made my decision to work at a call centre at age twenty all the more baffling, in retrospect) because I remember having to work up to calling my friends over for a playdate.

I was one of those people who, when they got through the answering machine (a deviation from the script!), breathed in heavy panic for a few seconds before hanging up. My friend’s mother used to say she’d immediately know it was me who called when she checked her answering machine messages.

What brings me comfort is knowing that I’m not alone in absolutely hating phone calls. I’m not the only one who lets calls ring out because I’m not mentally prepare to answer, then waits five minutes and sends a message: ‘Hey, just missed your call. What’s up?’. It seems this particular phobia is one share by many other Gen Zs and millennials.

When I speak to my friends (all of who fall between the ages of twenty-six to thirty-three) the agreement is unanimous – none of them like phone calls and all of them would prefer an email or a message. But why do we all actively avoid phone calls, while my baby-boomer boss will constantly reprimand me for sending an email that could have instead been a ”five-second phone call’?

Personally, it’s the unknown aspect of a phone call.

Regardless of whether I’m calling or someone is phoning me, it’s hard to know what to expect. Maybe I call someone with that ‘five-second’ issue and they have follow-up questions for me that I can’t answer. Without wanting or anticipating it, the phone call drags on, taking up time I didn’t have.

And what about the person I’m calling? I think we all know the frustration of feeling like we have to drop everything midway through an important task to answer an unexpected phone call. As the mantra of every millennial office goes, ‘This could’ve been an email’.

As Forbes writer Brianna Wiest explains, “Phone calls seem invasive because they demand an instant response”. There’s a sense of entitlement in a phone call, a demand for the caller to acquiesce to your timeline. It could be that Gen Z and millennials – the generations known to accept wrong orders rather than disrupt a waiter’s day trying to correct it – are just more aware of manners and politeness. In general, it seems we respect and are more aware of boundaries.

Immediate panic

Phone calls, for me and many others of my generation, are reserved for the important moments, for catastrophic situations warranting a certain level of immediate panic.

“It’s fair to say that young people can still see the value of a phone call, but perhaps we understand it as something serious and significant, to be used in much more specific contexts”, writer Daisy Buchanan said in a 2016 article for The Guardian. To me, the immediacy of a phone call demands a level of urgency in the information that is relayed.

People have speculated millennials and Gen Zs are anxious and lacking in social and communication cues, leading to a dislike of phone calls. I’d argue it’s the opposite. Many of us take our social cues from facial expressions and body language and phone calls strip those away.

My boyfriend, for example, has a steady tone of voice.

When he works away and we chat on the phone, I often worry I’ve made him upset or angry. “Shaeden,” he’ll tell me, “that’s just how my voice sounds.”

Similarly, the silence on the other end of phone calls is terrifying. Are they silent because they’re fuming with incandescent rage on the other end? Or because they’re distract on focuse on something else? Without the visual element, you just don’t know.

The unknown nature of phone calls is likely the reason why I dislike them. We don’t know how much of our time the intrusion of a phone call might demand – and on the flip side, we don’t know if we’re encroaching on someone’s boundaries when choosing to phone.

Let’s all agree. If it can be an email or a message, let it be just that. Save the phone calls for emergencies, okay?

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