April 13, 2024

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

Is there dominance of mass-communication as opposed to the one-on-one phone call we fear so much?

I am a millennial. I have been since birth. As such, at the moment I received an email from the Science Editor Stefan regarding writing this article, I at once placed down the avocado I was busy mashing into guacamole, stopped brooding over the injustices of the housing market, and was inspired to challenge my thoughts on this subject. Hell, the topic must really have interested me. I was going to Instagram that guacamole.

Firstly, not entirely convinced by the suggestion that millennials do fear the phone. I wanted to address if the statement above was true or conversely, if it was fake news perpetuated by the Baby-Boomers to help them sleep at night. I was surprised with what I found. In research conducted by Ipsos Mori on behalf of Deloitte, it was found that while 76% of adults owned a mobile phone, 25% refused to utilise their mobile for its original purpose. Namely, for calling others.

Now, the above research is not to say that this is solely the fault of millennials. However, since bashing the millennial generation is so widely enjoyed that you could start a small village clubs dedicated to it, let’s stipulate some reasons why this might just be the case.

In a world where social media allows users to live broadcast to their entire friendship group and Snapchat allows its users to record 10-second snippets of many a regrettable night out at The Slug, people have recently become accustomed to communicating with far larger groups allowed by a simple phone call. In a book entitled “Sapiens” published in 2014, Yuval Noah Harari argues that with the “cognitive revolution” that occurred approximately 70,000 years ago, human beings, in an impressively small timescale, developed more complex, ingenious methods of communicating with each other. Consequently, we see the explosion of Homo sapien activity out of Africa and into the wider world. Perhaps because of this, or even as a driving factor that caused this rapid expansion, human beings have an evolutionary interest in being able to communicate with each other. Perhaps, on a subconscious level, communication is associated with safety. As such, humans have an added incentive to communicate with as many of their peers as possible in an efficient manner. Therefore, we see the dominance of mass-communication as opposed to the one-on-one phone call we fear so much.

Now, dear reader, I see the problem with the above line of argument too. Whilst the above may account for a preference for mass-communication rather than the phone call, it doesn’t account for the genuine dread I feel when my phone starts its vibrating pulse symptomatic of impending conversation. Well, let’s take the idea further. In a personal conversation, far more information is transferred between both parties on the phone. As such, there is a far higher possibility of the conversation going wrong. In this dangerous world of the mobile phone, it is not known whether puns will be pardoned or you’re liable to Freudian Slip on the banana that is, to continue a strained metaphor, phone conversation. With our added importance placed on communication, the phone call poses an unnecessary risk at failed communication. So years of evolutionary programming manifests itself as a crippling fear of personable conversation.

Whilst the above is purely personal conjecture, and maybe I’ve just been at Imperial too long, I’d like to take this moment to thank you for reading. If you have anything interesting to add, or to completely disprove me, please feel free to email me, I’d be happy to hear new ideas. Just don’t call me.

Henry Throp is an undergraduate student in physics at Imperial College London

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