Clive Thompson’s piece in the recent issue of Wired on the “Death of the Phone Call” illuminated some fascinating trends about cell phone use. Nielsen research shows that the number of cell phone calls hit a peak in 2007 and has declined each year since. Voice calls are also getting shorter, averaging half the time they did 5 years ago. While voice calls have declined over this period, texting has grown at an astounding rate. To an extent this was predictable. “Killer apps” drive all markets and texting became the app that drove the data services market for cell phones. Just ask any parent of a teenager and they will tell you a story about receiving a $300.00 + cell phone bill based on junior texting like mad. But what drove adoption of texting? Is it a millennial thing and the rest of us just wouldn’t understand? Each generation-my own included- thinks they really are “special”. The adoption of texting isn’t a generational phenomenon though. It’s actually a natural evolution in communication.
A phone call is obtrusive unless you are expecting it. There is an inherent risk in calling someone. They may not be available, you might be interrupting them and they may be totally unprepared to react to your call. As Thompson notes in his article, the vast majority of voice calls are calls to see if someone is available to talk. Texting on the other hand is far less intrusive. People can react on their own time. The sender can save face if the receiver doesn’t respond back immediately. The person receiving the text can take the time to read and react before responding…Minus the “oh, uh, yea, well you know…let me call you back” that typifies the average unsolicited phone call. Voicemail? Forget it. Voicemail is truly the voice application that is getting completely disinter-mediated. Nielsen data shows that more than a fifth of all voicemails are never listened to.
My own use of texting has risen exponentially in the last 2 years…And not just because we have a 19 year old daughter! Short form communication, that traditionally was handled via a quick phone call, has been replaced by the text. In both business and personal communication. The reality is texting is a more “natural” way for contacting someone in unobstrusive way. So ET, text home instead of calling. Your people will appreciate it.