Why Are We So Afraid to Talk on the Phone?
When I was a teenager way back in the late ’80s, talking on the phone was one of my favorite hobbies. It started with those long phone cords that could go through a few rooms of the house. By my late teens, we finally had a cordless phone, so I could go outside and talk to my friends and boyfriends. If I was at home, I was probably on the phone.
It may have been adulthood, or perhaps it was the coming of cellphones, that caused me to stop enjoying time talking on the phone. But recently, something changed.
1The Beginning of My Phone Fears
I think I quit enjoying phone calls when I reached adulthood. Many of the calls coming in were from creditors. But that only somewhat explains my fear of answering calls; it doesn’t explain why I wouldn’t want to talk on the phone in general.
Caller ID was the first thing that got me not wanting to answer the phone. Perhaps it was an unknown number — that means they want money, right? Or maybe it was someone I didn’t have the spoons to talk to.
When we’re young, we talk about anything and everything; nothing is sacred. As an adult, we might not want to share as much with others. As an adult, small talk got boring to me, and the act of hopping on the phone just to talk was more time than I wanted to invest.
2Then Smartphones Sealed the Deal
I got my first home computer in 1999. Chatrooms were my new way of communicating with people, but my cellphone kept me talking to family and friends. Then social media and smartphones came and made it so much easier to stay in contact without dialing a number.
Once I started typing messages instead of calling and talking, it became a habit. I think that’s where the “fear” of phone calls starts for a lot of people. Our anxieties make us worry about the silent moments when we’ve both run out of things to talk about. When you’re texting or messaging and the conversation dies, you don’t have to come up with a reason to hang up; you just stop replying.
Stepping away from a conversation — or ignoring it altogether — touches base with how texting is disconnecting us from other people. There’s a great article on Psychology Today about how not talking is weakening relationships, and it makes complete sense. There’s less connection when you’re typing. You’re not always picking up the context of what’s being “typed” to you. Finally, there’s no emotion.
3Just Pick Up the Phone and Call
It was during the craziness of 2020, and the growth of a new friendship around that time, that made me realize how much I missed talking on the phone with people. I wanted “real” conversations that weren’t being typed out on my phone, tablet, or computer. I also write for a living, and I sometimes get tired of typing.
My friend would randomly call me because she had stuff to say that was just “too much to type.” It took some getting used to, but I started to love those moments when her name popped up on my caller ID.
When my sister was off of work because of pandemic shutdowns, we started talking on the phone multiple times a week just to get some time connecting and bonding while at home.
Both of these things made me start longing for those teenage years, when I talked to all of my friends regularly on the phone. We didn’t have the ability to text each other and make plans. Unfortunately, I’m not the only person with an aversion to phone conversations, and many of my friends prefer text over talking as well.