Originally published on Mic.com
Waiting anxiously by the phone isn’t what it used to be.
The stereotype of a girl waiting by the phone for her crush to call has turned into prayers that our phones won’t ring because talking on the phone is awkward and feels bizarrely invasive. In 2012, a Pew Research Center study found that just 26% of teens talk to friends on their cellphones.
But while texting has gotten us to trade answering machines for emojis, when it comes to maintaining a spark, there are still couples out there picking up their smartphones to talk — which is clearly the smart thing to do.
Saying what you mean: Sure, texting is our primary means of getting to know someone new, and we labor over those perfectly crafted flirtations. But once you’ve reached a certain point in a relationship, when the expertly-constructed text is no longer so important and the thought of talking by phone is no longer anxiety-inducing, phone calls are clearly the superior way to connect, as anyone who’s ever struggled to make plans or conduct a friendly chat with an iPhone keyboard knows.
That means “hey, what’s up” and “whatcha up to” texts can go by the wayside.
“If I’m on the couch at home and we’re having a ‘how was your day’ texting chat, I’ll probably just ask if I can call,” Erin, 30, from Virgina, told Mic of her standard practice.
More importantly, those stressed nights spent deciphering a single text should teach us that verbal cues are still pretty darn important, without which we end up with the sort of vagueness and confusion we now take for granted. That’s why Emma, 26, from Minnesota, told Mic she refuses to engage in marathon texting sessions. “Some people really hate that, but I really hate trying to guess what someone means by something, or why they haven’t responded,” Emma said.
Showing you care: Beyond the clarity, calling embodies an appealingly old-school concept: making an effort. “When you’re talking on the phone, it means that you’re taking time to devote to talking to someone in real time,” Jake, 25, from Minnesota, told Mic.
The reward for that effort is a distinct level of comfort. Thanks to email, Slack and working remotely, we can inadvertently go an absurdly long time without speaking to anyone, making our conversations with significant others and close friends even more important.
And phone calls do the trick: In 2010, research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison discovered that girls experienced the same decreased levels of stress whether they talked with their mothers on the phone or in person. (The researchers are going to investigate texting next, but our guess is it’s not promising.)
Even emotion can come through on the call. A 2008 study from the University of Portsmouth found that you can actually “hear” when someone smiles through the phone.
Texting is fine. Texting is convenient, and safe. But those “phone people” out there are maintaining a crucial connection that emojis don’t match. “When you’re just about to go to bed and you’re on the phone with your partner and you get a sleepy ‘Sleep well,'” Erin said, “it’s comforting in a way a text never can be.”