The Mute Generation: Why Don't Young People Answer Their Cell Phones?

Millennials prefer other communication methods to traditional calling. The anxiety caused by having to offer an immediate response is one of their main reasons for this avoidance.
The Mute Generation: Why Don't Young People Answer Their Cell Phones?

Last update: 16 December, 2021

Have you ever wondered why many young people don’t answer their cell phones? They’ll say “I didn’t have it with me” or “I had it on silent” or “I was with friends”. Is this why millennials and generation Z are called the mute generation?

According to a study conducted by BankMyCell, for these young people, receiving a call is an intrusion into their everyday life. It’s also too time-consuming. At least, that’s what 75 percent of the young people interviewed for this research claimed.

For 75 percent of young people, receiving a call intrudes into their everyday life.

The sample consisted of 1,200 young Americans born between 1981 and 1996. Enric Soler, professor of psychology and educational studies at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC), supports the conclusions of this study.

Soler suggests that a phone call acts as an intrusion and the young person doesn’t know for how long it’ll distract them. He further claims that they take the view that whoever it is that’s calling them is always needier than them, as the receiver of the call.

Young people with mobile

The mute generation

Based on research such as that carried out by BankMyCell, this segment of society has come to be called the mute generation. However, why don’t today’s young people answer their cell phones?

  • It’s a distraction. Phone calls can be a source of stress for some young people, as they’re forced to deal with them immediately. That’s why this generation tends to prefer text messages, as they can reply to them whenever they feel like it. In this way, they have enough time to prepare the most suitable response.

  • It takes time. Today, there are many other communication systems that are more adaptable to current habits and lifestyles. Even sending audios allows the sender to think about their answer and re-record it as many times as they like. On no occasion are they forced to give an immediate response.

  • They might say something they regret. Although we’re living in the age of immediacy, the younger generations often don’t feel able to give immediate answers. In fact, they prefer to take their time and answer when they really feel ready.

  • Words disappear into the wind. In an information society where everything is online, oral communication has become less and less valid. Having things in writing allows these young people to remember the exact words to which they’ll have to respond when the time comes.

The survey carried out by BankMyCell collated the main reasons young people give for not answering certain phone calls.

About 75 percent of those surveyed claimed that calls are too time-consuming. 64 percent of them mentioned the difficulty of dealing with needy people. 55 percent admit not answering certain calls when arriving at an event, and another 49 percent don’t answer for fear of being asked a favor.

Change in communication habits

Furthermore, communication habits, in general, are undergoing important changes.  It’s in young people that these changes are most evident.

“The mute generation perceives the traditional call as a risky communication strategy.”

-Ferrán Lalueza, professor of Information Science Studies at the UOC-

“Millennials and Generation Z have integrated communication through asynchronous platforms, in which it is not necessary for the two interlocutors to coincide in time, and it is easier, more comfortable, and less intrusive for them”, explains Enric Soler, “It’s is easier, more comfortable and less intrusive”.

Calls can be annoying

Another aspect to keep in mind is that calls can be annoying. Especially for the youngest among us. In fact, according to Ferrán Lalueza, professor of Information and Communication Sciences Studies at the UOC, the mute generation perceives the traditional phone call as ‘a risky communication strategy’. Indeed, it’s true that in a call you can’t erase or unsay any of your words.

“This creates less security and confidence for them than using a voice message “, continues the UOC professor. He further claims that one of the advantages that young people see in this other system is that they can “repeat their speech as many times as necessary before sending it”.

People with mobile

The society of immediacy

It’s true that we’re living in a society of immediacy. However, this hides a curious paradox. It’s the fact that it should be the younger generations that show this quality of immediacy. Nevertheless, it seems that nothing could be further from the truth because it’s these new generations that need the most time to carry out their communicative acts.

One of the main reasons is that traditional conversation methods can be a major source of anxiety for younger generations.

It seems that the mute generation certainly doesn’t feel very comfortable in ‘face-to-face’ and ‘synchronous’ conversations. As Enric Soler warns, this lack of security means that they tend to put defense mechanisms such as avoidance in place. Because, if they don’t respond, there’s no chance of them exposing their deficiency in this area.

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