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People Are Discovering the Joy of Actually Talking on a Phone – Facts So Romantic

Researchers predicted that people would consistently underrate how much they might benefit from talking on the phone.Photograph by…

Photograph by Stokkete / Shutterstock

I’m one of the lucky ones. The onset of this pandemic has put a strain on the sanity of many people forced to isolate themselves from friends and family. If you live alone, or with roommates who you aren’t close with, you’ve likely had a harder time maintaining social connection compared to me, a husband and father. My in-laws, with whom my wife and I form a social pod, are a five-minute’s drive away. And across the bay, in San Francisco, live two of my best friends, with whom I’ve had a number of socially distanced “hangs.” Intimate communication is easy to come by. I’ve got 99 problems but feeling alone isn’t one.

More isolated people, though, are reverting to a practice that we thought we had heard the last of. “Verizon said it was now handling an average of 800 million wireless calls a day during the week, more than double the number made on Mother’s Day, historically one of the busiest call days of the year,” reported The New York Times back in April. “Verizon added that the length of voice calls was up 33 percent from an average day before the outbreak. AT&T said that the number of cellular calls had risen 35 percent and that Wi-Fi-based calls had nearly doubled from averages in normal times.” Given this uptick in COVID-era calls, wouldn’t you think people had gotten over the modern reluctance, amid the ubiquity of smartphones, to speak with one another?

Talking on the phone is much more satisfying than exchanging emails and text messages.

Apparently not. In a recent study, psychologists Amit Kumar and Nicholas Epley found that people are surprised to realize that talking on the phone is much more satisfying than exchanging emails and text messages. “People have these fears about awkwardness, and that seems to be part of what’s pushing them toward text-based media,” Kumar said, even after months of social distancing.

The researchers predicted that the way people choose to communicate—by speaking or typing—would have to do at least a little with how they see the pros and cons of each option. You might view a text exchange with a relative as conversationally less onerous, for example. Kumar and Epley also predicted that people would consistently underrate how much they might benefit from talking on the phone.

“We tested this hypothesis by asking participants in a field experiment to reconnect with an old friend either over the phone or e-mail, and by…

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