Well, maybe it is not completely dead, but it is dying.
For decades, the phone call has been the ideal way to keep in touch with family, friends and business associates. It was ideal because it was the easiest, fastest, most efficient way to communicate. With the advent of the Internet, email, IM and now SMS/MMS, the phone call is no longer the easiest, fastest or most efficient way to communicate. The phone call is dying because today’s youth no longer value the ideal that the phone call holds. That is the recipient of the call no longer thinks, “Wow, that was mighty nice of them to pick-up phone and call.”
I am fortunate in that I have friends, family members and business associates from a broad range of ages, backgrounds and who have a diverse communication preferences. Every week, I communicate with 75 year olds and 15 year olds a like. I believe there is a succinct dividing line between those who still value the phone call, those who still prefer to make a phone call and those who do not see the value in a phone call and would prefer to keep all of their communications electronic and textual. I believe that this “dividing line” is those who are currently the age of 26.
If you are 26 or older, you “missed” the MySpace, Facebook, social networking craze while you were in high school and college. You have a cellphone, of course, but unless you use it for business, you still don’t get your emails on it, send SMS messages like they are going out-of-style and only use 1/10th of the phones functionality (it is a phone you makes calls on it!). Few in these age brackets, browse the web like they once watched television. Most do not understand the idea of “dis-connecting” because, well, they were never really connected in the first place. Sure there are technophiles out there who will tell me I am wrong, but when you look at the average person, the mass market type, you will see that there communications preferences remain old school.
They prefer to call you and to be called. It is what they know, it was they are use to. It is what is easiest, fastest and most efficient.
I know people who have never called me. I am not talking about business associates either. I am talking about friends and colleagues who I see in person every day. As I sit here writing this, three of my friends are in the other room tapping away on their phones sending text messages to others. Not once, in the last four hours, has anyone made or received a phone call.
They are all under the age of 26.
They grew-up with MySpace and Facebook. They use AIM every day all day (even on their cellphones). They are the ones you will call, they won’t pick-up, but will send you a text message thirty seconds later asking, “What’s up?” It isn’t just my friends, it is my friends friends and their friends friends friends. It is the generation. Their behavior, based on their experience with technology has changed their communication preferences. The perceived value in making a phone call is lost on them.
As future generations grow-up with new and different communication technologies, the phone call will die. It might not happen soon, but eventually no one will make a phone call. As future generations grow-up in a world where everything that one once did in person, one can do in the virtual world that is the Internet, people will become accustom to the isolation that comes with it and come to prefer it.
As future generations learn to build relationship online through Facebook, MySpace, email and through other electronic communications mediums without the need for physical interaction, “reach out and touch someone” will no longer hold meaning.
What will this mean for society? Is this a good thing? Is it a bad thing?
It still remains to be seen.
In the long run, society and businesses will change as well to adapt to the new way in which people communicate. In the near term, however, the rate at which communications technology changes and progress and the rate at which younger generations become accustom to adapting to these new methods will result in the divide between the old guard and the new guard increasing at an alarming rate, creating a whole new problem for society and businesses…what is the best way to communicate with this person?
Chances are it won’t be the same way you prefer to communicate.