Has Talking On A Cell Phone Become A Taboo?

When was the last time you had a lengthy chat with someone on the phone? A few weeks? Months? Years, even? Well, if it’s been a while, you can rest assured that you are not the only one. But it should make us wonder if the the future of one-on-one communication will rest solely on our thumbs.

You’ve probably seen teens and adults alike texting away on their phones. It’s seemingly an infectious, zombie-like trend. They text while in school (unproductive, I know). They text while in the movie theaters (annoying, I know). They text while driving (dangerous, I know).

They are taking over!



It’s amazing how when looking at purchasing a cell phone nowadays, the call quality and the ability to easily place a call has taken a back seat (or it might no longer even be a consideration) to features like texting, social networking, and Internet browsing on a phone.

The statistics back this up too. In 2008, the average talk time on a phone was a paltry 2.27 minutes, yet it was further shortened in 2009 with an average 1.81 minutes of talk time, according to CTIA. (It makes me wonder if anyone, with the exception of business accounts, ever actually come close to using all those voice minutes they purchase.)

This has essentially resulted in people using their phones for data more than voice communication.

But what about talking? The expression and spontaneity that a phone call offers just isn’t matched with a text message. In a phone call, you are forced to think on your feet, with the subtle pressure of expressing yourself on the spot always lingering.

You don’t get that with texting. You get all the time in the world to craft the perfect response, and there is no deadline on when it must be delivered. You can take all the time in the world. To many, though, this is a big appeal for texting. But to others, it can feel like a road to a more anti-social culture.

So in the future, when someone wants to talk to a stranger, is that person going to look the other person up on FourSquare, see if he or she checked in, message that person on there, and then, after all that, start talking face-to-face? (Actually, it wouldn’t shock me if this has already been done.)

It’s an extreme example, but it is something worth thinking about.


Why Text?

The thought of us all increasingly suffering from ADHD could point towards the popularity of texting. It’s simple. It’s convenient. It’s on our own time. And we have control of the flow of information.

But it could also be the case of people having nothing to say. People have had a tendency to dismiss talking, preferring to keep quiet. Instead of chatting it up, some would prefer to text it up.

VentureBeat also brought up the idea that bad call quality could be to blame. Ironically enough, I have noticed that the voice quality on cell phones has increasingly diminished. I can’t go through a phone conversation without having to ask someone to repeat something several times per phone call, even in relatively short conversations as well.

But regardless of the reasoning, it is obvious that the world wants things in smaller, easily digestible chunks. This is exactly why Twitter is such a hit with people in general. And considering that Twitter was created to utilize SMS and texting protocols on cell phones, it makes sense that texting is as popular as ever too.


Let’s Talk

Now some will argue that this whole texting thing isn’t an issue at all. After all, people are more connected than ever, especially with social networks like Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare, and others. This increased texting trend has also been argued to improve literacy and writing skills as well.

And, in truth, texting isn’t a bad thing. As a matter of fact, it is great. There are certain times when texting is the perfect form of communication.

But it’s nice to hear a voice once in awhile, right?

I don’t think the world needs to stop everything, pick up the phone, and call everyone on their contact list to make it right. But I do think would be a good idea to try and talk to people on the phone more often, instead of sending them a text. It certainly couldn’t hurt. Also, what else are you going to do with all those voice minutes you pay for? Waste them?

It just feels as if everyone wants to text, tweet, e-mail, or even Facebook, instead of talking on a cell phone. Can’t we just… you know… talk?

So tell us, do you text more than you talk on the phone? Or is talking doomed in the future? Leave a comment and let us know!

Written by James Mowery

James Mowery is a passionate technology journalist and entrepreneur who has written for various top-tier publications like Mashable and CMSWire. Follow him on Twitter: @JMowery.

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  • I still prefer the old fashioned face to face conversation and I have never sent a text message via a mobile phone. At the moment I couldn’t even tell you where my phone is. I guess I am just abnormal though.

  • @kwigbo

    Haha. See, you might be on the complete opposite spectrum of this article. While there are people who text religiously, there are also those who won’t even bother with texting — my parents included.

    I think I am in the middle ground. I don’t mind firing off a text, but many times I would prefer to call someone up, but now it seems that other people that I know don’t feel comfortable talking on the phone. They won’t pick up the phone, but they will text me a few moments later. It’s crazy. 😛

    • Dan

      Not crazy at all.

      My preference is to talk face to face, then text and lastly calling people. I hate talking on phones and will screen it before picking it up, if its family then i answer but if its some friends i would lie and text them later saying “At work, cant talk, text me instead, wassup ?”

      The reason ?, Most of the conversations are completely pointless and stupid. “hey, wassup ?, where are you ?, what are you doing ?, do you want to bla bla bla bla bla …”

      And now i am suddenly stuck talking about inane stuff when i have something better to do. Texting allows ME to engage in stupid conversations when I want to instead of having it forced on me.

      Face to face i would already look busy, and it takes away most of the small talk pre-conversation questions like where i am and what i am doing. And thank god for 160 characters. People get to the point of what they want and can circumvent out-of-politness formalities when talking.

      Also missed calls raise that “what if its an emergency” adrenaline and gets you disapointed when its just your friend wanting to say “where you at ?, at home ?, i thought you where on campus”.

      Not picking up phone calls, and not returning missed calls seems to be standard, unless its family (or a potential employer). If its important they will either call again or text me instead.

      Also you misspelled a word “on a phone call, you are forced to think on your FEAT”. I do not pre-plan my feats, i just do them.

  • Liz

    I’m THRILLED not to hear people’s conversations as often. Talking on the phone should be when there aren’t other people around. I despise cell phones. Talk in person, talk while alone, but shut up if you’re out in public. I don’t care how drunk you got last night.

  • Jo Diggs

    Why talk when you can text?


  • Ruggy

    The sound quality is atrocious.

    If I’m on a landline, and the guy I’m talking to is on a cell, I’ll quite often ask if he can switch to a landline. If we’re both on our cell phones, the resulting audio quality will be worse than ham radio, and I keep the conversation as brief as possible; usually with the request to “shoot me an email” or “I’ll call you back from my office.”

    The last cell phone I used seriously was a Nokia bag phone which, if you’ll recall, was a 3-watt analog phone. Sound quality was as good as a landline. I could even send & receive faxes over it.

  • Seriously

    ” In a phone call, you are forced to think on your feat, with the subtle pressure of expressing yourself on the spot always lingering.”

    FEAT |fēt| noun : an achievement that requires great courage, skill, or strength.

    TO THINK ON ONE’S FEET : to be able to speak and reason well while (standing and talking) in front of an audience, especially extemporaneously.

    seriously considering you’re a writer which is a difficult medium of expression to begin with. <– irrelevant

    you can't be making simple mistakes like that. its embarrassing.

  • Ed Gonzalez

    I completely agree. I am 20, but my friends and I would still much rather call each other than text. My sister on the other hand, who is 16, relies so much on texting. I definitely prefer talking, so much easier.

  • Some Guy

    the reason i text and the same with others i know. its cheaper. living in canada sucks big time for cell phone plans. text is way cheaper then talking on the phone. damn you capitalism.

  • Gd

    Just so that I’m clear here, you can *talk* on a cell? I vaguely remember talking in the past, but I text pretty much everything now.

  • Cm

    That’s just because customers are, on average, retards. As anyone who’s ever worked retail or customer service or pretty much any job dealing with the general public can tell you.

  • Texting is easier if you need to get a piece of information across. If you call someone on the phone you have to go through the hey whats up crap, and then get to business. With texting you just need to send over the info or question and wait for a reply.

  • Gss

    Let me know when they get this feature: the ability to take a phone to a bar or a mall and send out a text to people within a 100 yr radius of me that I’m single and available and ready to talk to a female. When they get this feature, I might actually consider getting a cell phone. Until then, fuck it. Not enough features.

    • Thats absolutely ridiculous. The idea that you would not walk over to a girl/whoever the hell you want to talk to and just talk to them COMES from the ability to even use a cell phone or computer. These things are supposed to be an extension of face to face communication not a replacement for. If the object is communication then I would much rather meet face to face. If it’s possible I would much rather take in entertainment live with other people. This is coming from a 24 year old who has seen the value of face to face communication. The BEST of texting/emailing/etc skills will still fall short of what I can get done in an interview/bar/business meeting/____ face to face. Life is richer in person in general. All the features in the world can’t replace your personality or that of another person. I wish I could convey this in person because I know you would agree.

  • Sephus

    “Not enough features.” That has to be a joke. It takes homework, video games or flash video to even get me to open my laptop anymore. I’m posting from my phone right now. I don’t think I call people any less than I used to but I communicate with them more. It does take time, effort and a little privacy to make a call and may be too much hassle for trivial matters. But I can text thoughts, reminders or funny links I found to keep friends and family involved throughout my day.

  • E3

    I prefer a phone call over texting and face to face over a phone call… Texting is a good way to avoid pointless engagement for a short amount of time, if you have little to discuss. I will still talk on the phone with most friends because we share the same carrier and get free minutes if talking to eachother. Even if the conversation is dull at times, I might still be on the phone for over an hour. Texting an entire conversation, on the other hand, is completely exhausting. I can’t text with a hands free. No multitasking. And if you drive and text…Ur an idiot. It’s also a rather antisocial practice. People can easily avoid showing any anxiety while chatting up new people. This only enables that behavior. They can take time to really think about something to say other than being put on the spot. I don’t know what’s more authentic, but I don’t like the idea of somebody taking their time just to humor me. Grow some balls and talk on the phone once in a while. Stop being freaks and thinking you look cool while texting all the time. It’s especially rude when you’re out with people. Cut it out, hollywood. Save yourself the time and others the dissappointment. Make the call and if you got nothin’ much to say to your sweety, then it’s probably a sign it won’t work out. F’n gen Z kids.

  • Amadeus Excello

    The third sentence of the sixth paragraph contains a minor error – “feat” is inappropriately used for “feet.” “Think on your feet” is what should’ve been used to describe extemporaneous conversations.


  • Geneva

    How I wish this were true! But it isn’t. The last time I got onto a double-decker bus at the ferry, every single person was shouting into their hand. Unless I put on a headset and cranked up the decibels enough to damage my hearing, I would have to listen to their inane chatter all the way home. I’d like to have a little mental space for my own thoughts once in a while in public places, not hear the details of some twit’s latest shopping trip or spat with her boyfriend! I’d love to be able to sit through a lecture, movie or restaurant conversation without being interrupted several times by a cellphone. Paying attention to the people you were with and letting those afar wait their turn used to be thought of as common courtesy.

  • Seriously! I so much hate texting. Everything aside, it is such a waste of time and there’s nothing like talking to another person.