To connect more meaningfully with each other, call instead of texting

Over the last couple of months, social distancing has pushed many of us to rely on technology to connect with one another. And while many opt for text-based communications out of fear of awkwardness, new research shows that a phone call is more likely to produce the actual feelings of connectedness they’re after.

As part of the study, researchers asked 200 participants to make predictions about how they would feel if they reconnected with an old friend either by text or phone and then they assigned them to actually do it. Even though participants intuited that a phone call would make them feel more connected, they still said they would prefer to email because they expected calling would be too awkward.

“When it came to actual experience, people reported they did form a significantly stronger bond with their old friend on the phone versus email, and they did not feel more awkward,” says Amit Kumar, assistant professor at the University of Texas.

A separate experiment proved the same thing. Here, researchers randomly assigned strangers to connect either using text during a live chat, talking over video chat, or talking using only audio.

Participants had to ask and answer a series of personal questions such as, “Is there something you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?” or “Can you describe a time you cried in front of another person?”

While the participants thought the communication medium wouldn’t matter, the results showed that when they really interacted, talking, not texting, helped people feel significantly more connected. Here, too, they didn’t feel any awkwardness when hearing each other’s voices.

In a time when feeling truly connected with others is especially important, the researchers hope that the findings will prompt more people to hear each other’s voices when they pick up the phone to catch up with those they care about.

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