NOS / Jeroen van Eijndhoven
Does the phone call follow the phone book? Email, messaging apps and social media are making a dialogue over the phone more and more unnecessary.
It even seems to be of interest among young people. A small sample of a Breda student association: “If I can avoid it, I will,” says Jeppe. And Sam says, “Apping is easier, then you don’t have to respond until you feel like it.” Mats: “There’s just no need to call.”
Will no one call anymore? The numbers tell a very different story.
Billions of minutes
Yes, we hardly ever call via the landline, barring a small revival during corona. In the last quarter of 2021, we still made 1.6 billion calls via landline, according to figures from the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets.
But in that same period, we made 12.4 billion minutes of mobile phone calls, an increase of 7 percent. In any case, the number of mobile minutes has been increasing for years. And that’s without all the internet calling minutes via apps such as Skype, Facetime and Whatsapp.
Sometimes I think: something more important, please!
Peter Nikken, professor of media education
And yet: the young people in the introduction are not isolated. Office Motivation researched the communication behavior of young people (aged 18 to 30) a few years ago and found that 89 percent are more likely to send a message to friends than to call them. 38 percent even find it scary to call, compared to 15 percent of older Dutch people.
Peter Nikken, professor of media education at Erasmus University Rotterdam and researcher at the Netherlands Youth Institute, understands that. “Young people are in a phase with a lot of uncertainty. They are developing themselves: who am I, who am I becoming? That uncertainty translates into more difficult contact with others, especially with strangers.”
“You really have to have a conversation over the phone. You don’t look the other person directly in the eye and you always have to give a good answer. Then they are like: then don’t call. Especially now that there are so many other options where you have more control about your communication.”
Fear of Rejection
Claudia Bouwens recognizes this. She provides telephone training to the business community for people who dread a telephone conversation. “I notice that people find it more and more difficult to call. We can do everything with the phone; app, swipe, snap. Entering ten numbers to start a real conversation with each other, we find that very difficult.”
Watch a call training in this video:
‘It lacks a dose of guts’
People who have trouble calling often lack “a dose of guts and conversational techniques”, says Bouwens. “There are all kinds of obstacles for the caller; fear of rejection, fear of being referred, fear of not getting the right answer right away. All reasons why a telephone call would not be useful.”
Nevertheless, the figures leave no doubt: we have actually started using more telephones. Professor Nikken therefore thinks that interest is primarily a generational ailment that disappears again in most people. “It used to be that young people often felt insecure and therefore did not like to call. But then they had no other choice, except to write a letter.”
Today, young people have plenty of options for avoiding a potentially uncomfortable phone conversation. Nikken thinks that doesn’t have to make much of a difference to their development. “They mainly acquire social skills in the classroom and the gym, in real life.”
And for many young people, the barrier to calling is actually lowered by all the new means of communication, Nikken emphasizes. “Sometimes you see someone on the train calling so loudly that everyone can listen in. Then I think: something more important please!”