At first I thought it was my imagination. Then of course, I took it personally: ‘What did I do?’ Or conversely, ‘What didn’t I do?’ Had I been abandoned and relegated to the bottom of the friendship league? Next, I attempted to resuscitate the art of conversation by calling friends to indulge in that forgotten pursuit, formerly called ‘having a chat’.
Is there anybody out there?
Getting through in the first place was a challenge. No one seemed to be in the vicinity of their mobile phone (and don’t even mention the outmoded concept of the landline). Leaving a message was absolutely no guarantee of a return call. More often than not, a message (using one of a variety of platforms) was the likely outcome. If I did succeed in getting through, I inevitably got the impression that I was intruding on an over-stuffed schedule or the recipient was ‘just’ leaving the house, making the tea, finishing a piece of work (delete as applicable) and invariably didn’t suggest another time to call back nor pledge to reciprocate later.
Phonecalls in decline
Was this a personal plight or merely the delusions of a paranoid mind? I decided to see what Mr Google could tell me. The statistics speak for themselves. In the first quarter of September 2016, Ofcom revealed that the amount of time spent talking on the phone had fallen by 12% since the same quarter the previous year (1). Instead of speaking to each other it seems, we are becoming avid texters – a form of asynchronous communication obviating the need to make real spoken conversation at all.
Free calls going spare
A recent American study (2) shows conclusively that 75% of millennials between the ages of 18 and 24 are texting an average of 60 messages a day. At the same time, less than 30% of that age group are making regular voice calls. Some mobile phone companies even report that many customers are no longer making use of their ‘free minutes’ entitlement. In other words, we have arrived at the bizarre position in which we are having more virtual digital conversations than ‘real ones’.