It’s official; Brits really are an antisocial bunch. If that is, you believe this week’s Ofcom research showing now, more than ever before, the population of the British Isles is more likely to text than actually pick up a handset and make a phone call.
58 per cent of people communicated via texts on a daily basis in 2011, whereas only 47 per cent made a daily mobile call – the shift away from traditional ways of keeping in touch is not surprisingly being led by young people aged 16-24.
The fact that the way we communicate with each other is changing should not come as such a shock though. After all, every generation experiences advances in technology that differ from its predecessors: the ancient Britons used beacons to warn of approaching enemies, Nelson directed Trafalgar with semaphore, Marconi developed the radio and Monty Python did Julius Caesar with an Aldis lamp.
Just because we no longer converse on landlines and the mobile phone – this in itself is a relatively new invention – does this mean we are any less sociable than we were 50 years ago? My argument would be that we are in fact more sociable than ever before; just look at the explosion of social media over the last five years. The difference is that we are simply finding different ways to be sociable.
AT&T recently found that people are using their smartphones less to make phone calls to each other; rather they are turning to services like Apple’s iMessage, Blackberry’s instant messaging and Skype to communicate. I would argue this indicates a change in user behaviour mirroring the social media époque we find ourselves in, rather than an underlying social change within society.
Many already rely on data to make calls and send texts but if this trend towards increasing data consumption continues, the day where telecom operators offer data-only price plans may not be too far away.
The fact remains, however, that carriers currently benefit too heavily by charging separately for voice and data to combine the two in the immediate future. After all, there is a high risk that if customers use data-only plans to make phone calls, they would simply pick the lowest option and do most of their calling on Wi-Fi; a proposition that wouldn’t sit well with the big boys. That said, all it will take is for a Vodaphone or O2 to take the plunge and the rest will be forced to follow.
Yes, we may talk less on the phone, but does that really make us any less sociable? Thanks to the likes of Facebook and Twitter, smartphones and tablet devices we are more connected and accessible than ever before in our long history, and surely that has to count for something in the sociability stakes. Technology has once again played the part of the great enabler – that said, it doesn’t mean a phone call once in a while to the parents will ever go amiss!