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Hate making phone calls? That’s probably about to change

Posted by
Hollie Richardson
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Coronavirus: people are ringing each other more.

Here’s why you should pick up the phone and call your friends, family and colleagues today.

I woke up to 82 WhatsApp notifications today. I’d only have around eight on a typical lazy weekend morning. But, because of the coronavirus pandemic, my phone is getting more use than ever before. If I can’t see my friends, family and colleagues in real life – I’m thankful to live in a digital age where it’s so easy to connect with each other on smart phones. 

But it’s not just voice notes and instant messages that are lighting up my mobile. People are actually ringing it to talk in real time. I had four conversations just yesterday. Crazy, huh?

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The way we make phone calls has matured over the last decade. Thanks to apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, FaceTime, Skype and Zoom, video calls have become the new norm. Let’s be honest though: many of us still avoid making or taking calls. Just last year, Ofcom found that younger people find making phone calls daunting, and prefer to use messaging services.

However, the social distancing period during the coronavirus pandemic is changing this.

According to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Messenger and WhatsApp are currently seeing exponentially high levels of calling, especially in countries facing the coronavirus crisis. 

“In terms of stats, we’re seeing very elevated levels of use in Italy and in all countries that have been affected,” he said on a press call reported on by Vice. “In terms of WhatsApp or Messenger for calling is more than double overall what it normally is.” 

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So what exactly do we get out of making a phone or video call? 

Speaking to Stylist last year, psychologist Dr Kate Muir, a researcher at the University of Bath, explained: “We are driven towards rich communication. Humans are social animals and it’s vital to us that we remain in communication with one another. 

“Our natural preference is for face-to-face communication as it gives us more cues as to what the other person is feeling and thinking, but as technology has developed, the number of these interactions has dropped. 

“A phone call offers the nearest amount of information to a face-to-face interaction: we can hear when someone is smiling or frowning. You don’t get that on email or instant messenger. It’s easy to misinterpret a text message.”

Social distancing is changing people's relationships with making phone calls.
Social distancing is changing people's relationships with making phone calls.

Charles Spence, a professor in the department of experimental psychology at the University of Oxford, added: “Telephone calls allow for nuances, a sense of immediacy. If I hear somebody’s voice I know they are a real person, not a bot. Text and picture communication may be more efficient, but it can also bring distance and a sense of isolation.”  

I put all this science to my friends, who explained exactly why they’ve been making more calls over the last couple of weeks. 

“It’s nicer than messaging, especially if you’re stuck in a house and going stir crazy…”

“I’ve probably made more FaceTime face calls in the last few days than I ever have before,” Emmy, a journalist in London tells Stylist

“It seems to be a good way of trying to make the best of the situation. Houseparty is an app that can be a conference call with several people and everyone sits in front of the camera with a drink to just have a ‘normal’ conversation – I feel this way of communicating is becoming the new norm.

“It’s nicer than messaging, especially if you’re stuck in a house and going stir crazy. It’s nice to see other faces and hear their voices. That being said, I wouldn’t stop it for a normal drink at the pub.”

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“It feels like the next best thing to a hug…”

Amy, a photographer and studio manager from Glasgow, adds: “I’m a classic let the phone ring out and text ‘sorry missed your call’ person. But I’ve been on the phone or FaceTime to someone every day this week because it feels like the next best thing to a hug.”

“They are honestly the only thing that make me feel relaxed at the moment…”

And Sarah, a communications expert in Edinburgh, says: “I’ve been feeling really anxious. It has been particularly tough beacuse my job means I have to stay on top of the news, so it’s very hard to switch off. Especially now we’re all working from home. 

“Video calls with friends have been the closest thing to normal and they are honestly the only thing that make me feel relaxed at the moment, even if we are spending a lot of the time talking about what’s happening anyway.

“I think I knew it anyway, but I have really re-discovered this week that I need an audience to feel like myself!”

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So don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and make that call. Because the person at the other end of the line probably needs to hear a friendly voice and see a familiar face just as much you do.

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…

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