By Angie Argabrite, Monday, June 18, 2012, at 9:01 am.
Fewer of us are using the telephone for the purpose for which it was created: talking. A new term, “telephobia,” has been coined; voice calls are down 12 percent since 2009, and a growing number of us consider voice mail antiquated and/or bothersome. Leading us to wonder: How many among us feel fear or anxiety about getting on the horn? And why has phone usage evolved to this—are we more guarded in real life than we are online, where oversharing has become endemic to the 24/7 digital experience? Or is it just that we’ve gotten lazier and telephones are too much effort? Perhaps we’re fooled, too, because the phone is now so much more than a phone—it’s a GPS and gaming device, a commerce tool and, most of all, a vessel for copious text messages and emails. Still, even the future of the text message is under siege. In the past year, SMS usage has slowed, thanks to the release of Facebook Messenger for Android, iPhone and BlackBerry. And while it has evolved, the phone call refuses to die, least of all in the marketing realm. In fact, a new “smart number” technology popular with SEO enthusiasts sends Web users to a phone line rather than a URL. And, among loved ones, there is sometimes nothing more fortifying than a phone date; a scientific study showed that for most people, a phone call from their mother released levels of oxytocin similar to a hug. Is it just us, or does that sound like the beginnings of an awesome marketing campaign?