Members of the millennial generation have gotten a bad rap for being self-absorbed, fixated on technology and lacking in people skills. But now I understand why 20-somethings don’t call me back. They don’t like talking on the phone.
Once upon a time, people used landlines to speak to other people. Today, only 14% of teenagers make landline calls to their friends. That’s partly because the landline phone is almost extinct. But it’s also due to the fact that teens and 20-somethings prefer texting over talking. The average teen texts 60 messages a day.
They also hate voice mails and often delete them without bothering to listen. One subject confessed that he doesn’t delete them. He just has 103 voice mails he’s never listened to. “It’s not important if it’s not a text or Facebook message,” he explained.
They consider making a phone call an unnecessary ordeal. I mean, if no one picks up, they have to endure 35 seconds of ringing. Then they must navigate the gauntlet of listening to a robot recite an outgoing message. Even if it’s a warm personal outgoing message, they feel stage fright speaking after the beep.
In fact, some are downright afraid of calls. They fear that calls and voice mails mean “bad news.”
So I understand why voice mail is becoming a quaint relic of communication, like the telegram. One respondent said she only leaves a voice mail when she fears the person will think she “butt-dialed” them.
Besides my on-line research, I conducted a personal survey, asking every 20-something I met if they liked talking on the phone. The universal answer was “No.” However, they were able to dig deep into their memories to remember the time they did make calls.
In this respect, they once shared a ritual from my generation. Remember back in high school, when you spent your whole day talking to your best friend? Then when you got home, you picked up that thing with the long cord and called them to chat some more? These 20-somethings all remember that phase but it ended with the advent of the cellphone.
My survey showed, however, that even the most determined texters are sometimes forced to make a call: for example, if they want to talk to a distant relative who doesn’t have Skype. They also use old-fashioned human speech when calling grandma and grandpa. You know, geezers like me. One mentioned that she would never text her boss — that would be disrespectful. Otherwise, text or social media is the way to go.
Actually they’re right. Texting essential information, like what you want at Potbelly’s, is much more efficient than calling. Brief messages about being on your way, etc. Texts are also less threatening. For example, a mom told me she texts her babysitter and the sitter texts back whether she’s available. Declining by text is much less awkward.
Simply put, these Millennials are pragmatic and practical and don’t wish to waste anyone’s time with chit-chat. But one 20-something gave a surprising answer to my survey. She said she doesn’t like to talk on the phone because she prefers face-to-face communication. After I got off the floor, I congratulated her. Because my research showed that her generation can be lacking in speaking skills. They tend to not make eye contact or speak with authority. Who cares? “chicken salad w everything but mayo mustard i have pop at home” says it all.
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.