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Those of us who were —we were— adolescents until the nineties, we can attest that talking on the phone for long hours was a delightful habit that included its share of adrenaline: you had to know how to escape the paternal or maternal anger at the arrival of the mother. phone bill every month. So talking on the phone was not cheap, but it was the only way to stay connected over short and long distances.

It would not have occurred to us that talking on the phone would go out of style. That, when the 21st century arrived, adolescence would be handled by instant messaging and that the very idea of ​​calling by phone without consulting who would receive the call would be a cause of hysteria. “How can you think?!” was the response of more than one centeniall At the mere mention of this idea last Monday, October 4, the day on which Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp were ‘turned off’ for more than six hours.

“This goes hand in hand with changes in communication and doesn’t necessarily have to do with an introverted personality. Over the years, the way in which we have built long-distance interaction with people has changed. Although before we looked for a fast communication, the people did not count on this subject of the ubiquity and the real time ”, says the psychologist Cery Alvarado.

One study showed that we check our screens more than 40 times a day.  (REUTERS / Mike Blake).
One study showed that we check our screens more than 40 times a day. (REUTERS / Mike Blake).

A need?

How do we relate to the telephone in this age when mobile devices are more of a minicomputer with a camera included, than a telephone in the most conventional sense of the word? Although a global report prepared by the consultancy shows that we check our screens more than 40 times a day, it is true that we have put phone calls aside.

This is not a new matter. It is worth remembering that the American consultancy the number of telephone calls had been exceeded, for the first time in history, by sending SMS in that country. A few years later, in 2010 the consulting firm Pew carried out an investigation – always in the United States – that showed that the . In the same country, by 2007, landlines were already .

In our country, the situation has been painted a little differently. According to INEI data, , while in 94.0% of the country’s households there was at least one member with a cell phone. Compared to the same quarter of 2020, the coverage of households that have mobile telephony increased by 0.7%. And according , the traffic of calls from mobile phones increased by 17.65% during 2020, the highest percentage figure recorded in the last six years, with which Peruvians used a total of 94.329 million minutes to communicate to landlines and cell phones from the country and abroad. The need to stay in touch during the pandemic did its thing.

reached more than 41.22 million active lines at the end of the second quarter of the year, an increase of 11.2% compared to the same period in 2020. In addition, at the end of June, the average volume of traffic handled by mobile phone marked a new milestone with 28,497 MB in a path of progressive ascent that was strongly accentuated during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic that occurred last year, when the average data traffic per mobile phone was 16,748 MB. More connected, at least in the urban area, impossible.

Public telephone in rural areas (Photo: Osiptel)
Public telephone in rural areas (Photo: Osiptel)

Answer the phone

But, is it true that today we run away from calls? A It showed that yes, but that the fear is unfounded. “Positive social connections improve well-being. Technology increasingly offers a wide variety of media that people can use to connect with others, but not all media strengthen social connection equally, ”says the study presentation.

The work, carried out by doctors Nicolas Epley and Ashwin Kumar, started from the following premise: that people’s preferences for certain media are guided, at least in part, by how comfortable or uncomfortable the interaction would be and how connected they feel with the person with whom they communicate.

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As part of the experiment, they asked a group of people to reconnect with an old friend by phone or email. Another group was asked to converse with a stranger via video, voice, or text. The results indicated that interactions that included voice (phone, video chat, and voice chat) created stronger social bonds and did not increase discomfort, compared to interactions that included text (email, text chat). However, all participants started the activities showing discomfort due to voice communication. “Misunderstanding the consequences of using different media could create media preferences that do not maximize your own well-being or that of others,” the study concludes.

“Telephone calls involve using all your attention and your time to that person, while in a message, which is an asynchronous communication, you have the possibility of allowing time to respond. And that is due to the hyperconnection of the world ”, adds Cery Alvarado.

Another issue with the phone call, says our psychologist, is also the invasion of privacy. “In 2021, not only do the contacts you have on your cell phone call you, but also agencies, companies with unknown numbers, and even scammers. All this has been creating a climate of mistrust, the need to protect that over which previously there was no control, “he says.

The telephone, however, has always been invasive. It has allowed the human being to enter a space that was previously forbidden to him. Today that goes without saying, but we can reflect on this by going back to March 10, 1876, when the first phone call was made and inventor Alexander Graham Bell contacted his assistant, Thomas A. Watson. As the inventor noted in his diary, this was made between two adjoining rooms and the doors to both rooms were closed. Graham Bell entered Watson’s room without opening the door and without moving from his place.

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