Why a Classic Phone Call Is Better Than Video Calls or Texting
A science-backed explanation for why you should rely more on your voice and less on your face in our brave new world
When the pandemic hit the U.S., most of us found ourselves socially, and thus emotionally, isolated. Even essential workers, compelled to interact with others face-to-face as part of their jobs, saw their social lives transform. Suddenly, we all had to find new ways to connect with the people whose physical presence we once took for granted, whether it was an office deskmate whose absurd banter kept the workday light, or a friend with whom you had a weekly martini night.
Most of us, unfortunately, landed on Zoom, FaceTime, or Google Hangouts as social tethers. And though at the very beginning, phone calls surged, according to Verizon and other carriers, they’ve since fallen to pre-pandemic levels.
This should be reversed. Video calls are mostly terrible, and though the researchers I talked to for this story didn’t want to go so far as to agree with me that Zoom, in particular, is the devil’s spawn, they did heartily concur that, in many cases, video calls are no more effective at emotionally connecting you with your conversation partner than the good old fashioned phone call — or even just Zoom with the video turned off.
This is because the humble spoken voice is surprisingly emotive, communicating just as much, if not more, than facial expressions (at least over video). And one thing is for sure: Slack, email, text, and other forms of written communication are not bringing you as close to the people in your life as talking to them verbally.
Yet most of us are relying on video chats and texting to talk to our friends and colleagues, despite the downsides. Use of Zoom and other video chat programs has skyrocketed during the pandemic — Zoom’s stock price actually dropped on November 9, when Pfizer announced positive news about a vaccine in progress, suggesting that we may all see each other face to face sooner rather than later. Slack’s growth has also risen sharply this year over last.
But our phone time hasn’t kept pace. Instead, we’re staring slackjawed (haha) at our computer screens, shoulders…