Picture the scene: you’re stuck up a mountain with no one in sight, miles from civilisation, the snow is falling thick and fast. Your phone starts to ring — a saving grace? Au contraire. For one man who went missing for 24 hours last week while hiking on Colorado’s highest mountain, it was the piece de resistance. The phone call was from an unknown number. So, naturally, he repeatedly declined the calls. Turns out it was the rescue services trying to get hold of him.
I think I could make a pretty accurate guess at your age range by whether your response to this is “what an idiot” or “yeah, relatable”. If it’s the former, you’re probably a Boomer (sorry) and the latter, millennial or Gen Z — aka the generation who can’t stand phone calls.
Dubbed the “anxious generation” for our perceived susceptibility to mental health problems, for those of us born post-1980, the idea of perishing in the wilderness might be preferable to the anxiety of answering a spontaneous phone call.
Having lived most of our lives with the ability to text, we are so accustomed to the comfort of having a conversation at our own pace, thinking through what to say and how to say it, that a phone call out of the blue feels like an ambush. Why? Because phone calls demand an instant response with no opportunity for carefully curated and edited thoughts. It’s not that we necessarily want to avoid phone calls altogether, but more that they are an event we need to prepare for.
The trouble is that this then becomes a vicious cycle. Because young people don’t call each other for a catch-up, I assume that whenever anyone does ring me, it’s either a scam, a serious emergency or a telling off. So I sheepishly clutch my phone and stare at the screen until it stops vibrating (that’s another thing, we never have our phones on loud), and then get a voicemail from, invariably, my mum, asking if I’ve still got that headache.
I was sitting next to my best friend the other day when she got a call from an unknown number. She didn’t answer, obviously. Turns out it was someone calling back from her dream job offering her an interview. Boomers please, we love you, but sometimes an email wouldn’t hurt.