The most intimate to least intimate communication ranks from face to face conversation, FaceTime (video calling), phone call, written letter, email, and instant message or text. Yet, the text has become the primary form of communication because it is convenient and it gives people the ability to still do other things. A new study from the University of Texas in Austin suggests that people too often prefer to send text messages or emails when a phone call creates stronger bonds.
Positive social connections and media
The study, which appeared in the Journal of Experimental Psychology General, details that technology increasingly affords various media or platforms that people can use to connect with others. Yet, not all media can strengthen social connections equally.
During the field experiment, researchers asked 200 participants to make predictions on what it would be like to reconnect with an old friend via phone or email. Then, they were randomly assigned to do it. The result shows that even though participants perceived that a phone call would make them feel more connected with the other person, they would still prefer to email because they expected that calling the other person would be too awkward. “Miscalibrated expectations about awkwardness or connection could lead to suboptimal preferences for text-based media,” the authors wrote.
However, the researchers found that the phone call went much better compared to email. Co-author Amit Kumar, a McCombs School of Business assistant professor of marketing, told Medical Xpress that when it came to experience, respondents said they did not feel more awkward and they formed a significantly stronger bond with their old friend on phone than an email.
Experiment with a stranger
In the second experiment, the authors asked laboratory participants to connect to strangers either by talking over a video chat, texting during a live chat, or talking (audio) only. A series of questions were asked to these strangers by study participants, such as “Can you describe a time you cried in front of another person?” or “Is there something you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time and why haven’t you done it?”
The lab participants did not expect that the media they used in communication would matter. While they predicted that they would feel just as much connected to the stranger via text as via phone call, the researchers found that people felt more connected when they communicated by talking instead of typing. Again, they also found that there was no increase in awkwardness. The authors highlighted that misunderstanding the consequences of using different communication platforms could create preferences for media that will not maximize one’s or other’s wellbeing. This is because positive social connections improve people’s well-being.
Voice without visual cues
The result of their experiment also shows that a phone call itself, even without visual cues, appears to still be vital to bonding. The authors also challenged another myth about using voice-based media by determining the number of times participants used when reconnecting with an old friend. It was found that a phone call took about the same time as responding and reading to text or email.
The findings of their study would both challenge and reveal people’s assumptions about communication media at a time when connecting to people via technology is important. Kumar added that many people in the world today are asked to maintain physical distance, yet we still have social ties that are important for our health and well-being.
Weak social connections and painful isolations
Our World in Data, a scientific online publication that focuses on large global problems, shares that weak social connections and loneliness are linked with a reduction in lifespan the same to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes every day. It’s “quite a shocking comparison,” the publication reads, considering that around 7 million people die globally every year due to smoking.
Neuroscientists and psychologists often refer to loneliness as “painful isolation” but made a clear distinction between subjective loneliness and solitude, the latter being a state of being alone.
The platform also shows that people who often spend time with their friends report being happier compared to those who spend less time with friends. In Moldova, 53% of people say they are happy when they spend time with friends compared to 39% who rarely spend time with friends. Other countries mentioned included Albania (61% say they are “very happy” with regular interaction with friends, 54% say they are very happy without regular interaction with friends), Macedonia (66%, 58%), Zimbabwe (58%, 56%), and Peru (68%, 58%).
Why people avoid phone calls
In a statistic provided by BankMyCell, it found that 75% of millennials avoid phone calls because they are time-consuming. Some 64% said they avoid an incoming phone call because they are avoiding needy or whiny people, 63% said they didn’t notice it ring or vibrate, followed 12% who said they had a poor signal, 9% was in a meeting, 6% was driving, 5% couldn’t find their phone when it’s ringing, 4% said their phone is broken, and 1% said they avoid the call because they didn’t recognize the number.
The statistic seems somehow ironic, though, that people are most likely to dodge calls from friends (29%), parents or family (25%), workmates or colleagues (21%), boss (14%), or from their partner (11%). It seems that however presumptuous, time-consuming, and disruptive the call may be, they find that the confrontation with their loved one isn’t worth it.
Laura L. Ryan, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Certified Imago Therapist in Austin, shared via Bustle that although it may feel old-school or terrifying to some when they’re not used to it, the best bet for communicating effectively is to call them if you’re not with them in person. This is most especially the case if you have to talk or have to build a connection with a potential mate. Dating and relationship experts agree on this too. They believe that hearing someone’s voice helps one decode messages. You do not only have the word but also the pacing and the tone to help you decode the message.
If face-to-face communication is not possible, calling is better than email or texting as there are nonverbal cues that are lost in texting. It can help people improve their communication skills and also seeing body language and facial expressions of people help us understand the speakers’ intentions and motivations.