The WhatsApp generation: Why millennials prefer texting over calling

There are a dozen reasons why many of us prefer to text over talking. It’s fast, gives one time to ponder over the topic of discussion and then say something, and its brief. Some introverts believe it allows them to be themselves, and use words they deem appropriate.

Those who don’t like the excessive small talk, the scope for which may be high over a telephone call, those who detest call drops, and those who don’t want to be put on the spot prefer texting. There are others, however, who see texting as somewhat “artificial”. They believe they can never really know anyone if they are always communicating with them on text. In these times, where making friends on social media is common, the fear that the person is not what they seem on a social platform is always there.

Among our interviewees for this article, Trinolda Colaco, Sanket Jadhav, and Arham Chhajer belong to the former category of people; Pranali Pancholi and Ariindam Chakrabortiy are in the second group. The research for this story clearly throws up more texters than talkers. Colaco, 27, believes texting is the buffer she needs while talking to somebody. Says she, “If I have to dial back to why I prefer texting (or voice notes) over calling… as a child also I was a bit of an introvert. I take time to open up. Even if I’m at a party… If I have to socialize, I usually reserve it to a close, small group. I’m not a very chatty person who can just have conversations with people. I’m also definitely not one for small talk. I think that has something to do with the fact that I prefer texting over calling…”

While in a relationship...

The common perception is that people born between 1981 and 1996 (‘the millennials’) prefer the convenience of texting to actually picking up the phone and getting into a long conversation, sometimes even if it’s with their own boyfriends or girlfriends.

Shares Sanket Jadhav, 30, “If a matter needs to be discussed, that has led to an argument, then calling is better. In a text one doesn’t understand the tone, and there can be scope for misunderstandings. However, introverts like me prefer texting. Even if I’m in a relationship, I prefer texting, rather than spending two hours over the phone. When I was in a long distance relationship, we would speak on phone once a day to hear each other’s voices. But in general we would text. Also I lived in a house where there was limited space and I couldn’t always talk on phone freely in front of family. Even with my friends, I only call if there is something important.”

India is one of WhatsApp’s biggest markets and news reports suggest that India’s WhatsApp users have risen to 400 million. The age group of 18 to 35 years accounts for around 55% of the users according to others. Thus we see that while the popularity of WhatsApp has grown manifold in India, where the app has far more users than in the US, the concentration of this growth is among late teenagers, 20 and 30 somethings.

Additionally, in comparison to other mobile apps like Facebook and Instagram, WhatsApp is in first place when it comes to active monthly users. These stats clearly indicate the popularity of texting and its growth potential in India. People love to text.

Want to call? Ask on text

Writes Arham Chhajer, 24, in capital letters as we interview him, asking him what he turns to when he wants to talk to someone. A text message or a phone call. “TEXT ALWAYS!!!” he says.

“It’s non-confrontational. You can easily hide behind letters and it’s a lot less effort and less mentally draining. Also you can think of comebacks while you text versus when you are calling someone. Even if you want to get on a call, ask via text first. That's how most of us prefer it,” Chhajer adds, referring to people in his age group.

There is the oddball that prefers a phone call over a text. Over that such folks may prefer face to face communication over phone calls. However those who have such preferences consider themselves the odd one out.

Ariindam Chakrabortiy, 35, shares his misgivings about using texts as the primary mode of communication to build friendships, “Texting can be misconstrued. You can’t read the opposite person’s body language. Talking on phone is more efficient. I prefer real conversations and real relationships,” indicating that a voice call adds that element of authenticity to a relationship. “I get to know what kind of person it is much better on a phone call.” He suggests that texts can’t be the way people connect majority of the time. Exchanges have to go beyond constantly typing words and more words.

The bygone calling lover

Pranali Pancholi, 26, also considers herself to be the odd one out among her group. She much prefers to call and meet than incessantly text someone. She shares that she hasn’t been that active on text, but is now beginning to become a little more active since work happens on WhatsApp.

“Calling has a greater impact than texts. The essence of human to human connection is missing in texts. I don’t feel that connected to the opposite person on text. It’s not that intimate. Chatting can be exhausting. If I were in a relationship and the guy only texted me, it would be a deal breaker for me, since I’m not into casual relationships (and that’s what a chat based relationship may be). I want to be with someone with similar vision where we can align in terms of our life goals. I was in a relationship for 7 years and we would meet everyday, and call each other too. Texting was just for coordinating the meetings,” she says.

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