Graham Bell must be rolling in his grave. For several weeks, several Twitter posts suggest that the younger generations have become allergic to the telephone. Not the smartphone they are still clinging to, but more specifically phone calls. “They don’t want to make any more phone calls, or even receive any. They find it intrusive or rude. »
To get to the bottom of it, 20 minutes asked its young readers, between 16 and 25 years old, about their possible dislike of this mode of communication.
A real source of stress
“The telephone has always been an anxiety for me. As soon as it rings or I have to make a call, I get stressed. I panic and lose my words. It’s worse than passing the baccalaureate. Like Jamil, many of them expressed fear or discomfort with the handset, sometimes even finding it too brutal. Valentine, 23, never answers calls. A disabling situation in her professional life: “If I don’t know why they are calling me, I’m afraid of not knowing what to answer and of being thought of as an idiot. “A problem that she also encounters in her private life, where she avoids the telephone just as much.
Catherine Lejealle, sociologist and researcher at ISC Paris, explains this behavior: “When we receive a phone call, we are not necessarily prepared for the exchange that will take place and the reflection that it requires. We therefore find ourselves in a vulnerable position. For people who show shyness, this can be very inconvenient. »
This discomfort is all the greater for young people, in full development, according to the sociologist: “It is a cycle of identity construction, it is often difficult to align our ideas, to be relevant at the moment. We are not necessarily used to expressing ourselves in public, for example. For those like Anne who are afraid of being judged, criticized, or of people around overhearing the conversation, making a phone call is a “difficult emotional burden to handle.”
The difficulty of speaking without seeing
Jonathan experiences the same embarrassment. Yet “very socially integrated” and having “no direct relationship problems”, he finds it very difficult to talk on the phone with anyone, even his relatives. A feeling that he explains by the difficulty of exchanging without seeing the reactions of his interlocutor. “About 70% of our communication is non-verbal. It’s not so easy to do without the vision of the person in front, confirms Catherine Lejealle, when you lack confidence, the partner is a point of support, you transmit your emotions through the look, the body, and the other can rebound. By telephone, it is very difficult. »
And this discomfort is not the prerogative of “Generation Z”, even if the phenomenon seems more frequent for them. Bérangère, 40, says she has always had trouble with calls that she finds “too intrusive”. Like Bertrand, 51, who is always “afraid of getting in the way” when he initiates the phone call. Vanessa, if she is no longer “in the age group” of those who are considered young, continues to rehearse her speeches and always have notes in front of her before making a call.
The difference with previous generations? The alternatives
“Previous generations already knew these difficulties, assures Marie Danet, teacher and researcher in psychology, but the telephone was, in the vast majority of cases, the only means of communication. In other words, for lack of alternatives, the former young people had to force themselves: “This led to an effect of learning and habit that the young people no longer have. »
Because the shy of the “bigophone” today have multiple ways out to get around their problem. Mail, messaging (SMS, Whatsapp, Telegram…), social networks (Snapchat, Tiktok, Instagram…), there is no shortage of alternatives and they more easily win the support of our young readers. “By message, I have time to think about my answer. To reread the whole conversation. And I’m not in a hurry with my interlocutor, ”explains Zélie, who swears by Snapchat. “These new means of communication are more attractive because they are more creative and asynchronous, confirms Catherine Lejealle, they make it possible to build the image that we want to convey, to avoid being caught out. »
Having a phone does not mean being available
A way of keeping control which justifies the success of voice messages according to Marie Danet: “We can think about how we are going to say the thing, stop, cancel, start again. Especially since these “memos” bring together the best of both worlds, conveying emotions like the telephone, while leaving time for interpretation to the interlocutor, like messaging.
Fewer constraints for a generation already accustomed to à la carte services with Netflix, podcasts, etc. “It is a societal evolution. These are generations that are used to immediacy thanks to new technologies, but they want to keep control over their own actions and gestures, Marie Danet weighs in, and having their smartphone permanently in their pocket does not mean always being available. »