Smartphones supposedly made possible an age of unprecedented communication. Everyone, especially young people, uses these devices to contact anyone, anytime and anywhere. With the touch of a screen, a whole world of instant information and contacts is at one’s fingertips. Excellent relationships should be flourishing.
However, many young people need help to talk directly with others using their smartphones. Everything happens through impersonal tweets or text. As a result, many sense coldness and distance from these devices that should communicate the contrary.
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One enterprising lady noticed the social void and started a company that teaches phone skills to the over-communicated masses.
Mary Jane Copps is called The Phone Lady. She says younger generations no longer have phone skills that facilitated human relationships in the past. These same skills are still needed in the real world of human and business relationships.
Thus, business and social leaders find that many suffer from anxiety when talking directly with people—even their mothers—on the line. No one bothered to teach phone skills to Gen Z.
The Limitations of Texting
This is more than just a technical matter. It involves an inherent problem with the iPhone culture. Texting and instant messaging are designed to make contacts effortless and instant. A young man, for example, does not need to find or know the disposition of the one receiving his message. He feels free to interrupt whatever the other person is doing and expects a quick response. The encounter is distant, brutal and detached from a social context.
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Yet worse, the instant messaging culture lacks nuance. The primitive texts cannot convey context and tone. At most, emotion is limited to occasional exclamation points, caps and emojis. The receiver of a message often has no real way of knowing if the text is meant to convey anger, neutrality or warmth. The vast range of human passions, sentiments and feelings cannot find adequate expression in the short text.
The Richness of the Human Voice
On the other hand, the human voice is extraordinarily expressive and rich. The voice can signal doubt, enthusiasm, joy, sadness and concern in just a few words. By its intensity, the voice can whisper and shout. The speed of the voice communicates deliberation or impetuousness.
However, what causes Gen Z anxiety about the voice call is the conversation, not the nuance or context. The phone call forces the person to engage in real-time with another. The person must improvise and accommodate another. Conversation forces a person to think about the other person and not oneself. It requires effort, courtesy and charity.
The conversation introduces an element of the unknown that must be addressed immediately. And this causes anxiety among the newer generations.
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$480 Coaching Sessions
The Phone Lady addresses these fears, apparently without fear of charging too much. Her one-on-one coaching sessions run $480 an hour. Thirty-minute webinars cost $365. Businesses can have a workshop for their phone-shy Gen Zers for $3,500 per day.
De-texting therapy usually begins with the clients abstaining from all instant messaging. To overcome the fear of the unknown, clients are encouraged to call family and friends to chat or when they want something.
“If they’re not even used to talking on the phone to their mother, then the process is so scary,” Ms. Copp explains. “So I can’t say I’m going to make them call prospective clients as they would just fall apart—we start with their family or someone they know.”
At random times of the day, the Phone Lady will call clients to practice conversations and build improvisation skills. From there, she teaches connecting with unknown clients and developing business relationships that go beyond just email and text messages. Businesses willingly pay for these services because real life calls for these skills that so many lack.
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The Dangers of the Smartphone
The smartphone has taken away basic communication skills from users. Indeed, it seems almost surreal that someone like the Phone Lady has to exist. Basic personal contact with others is something so natural that it should not have to be taught to adults.
Ironically, those who lack these skills hold in their hand an instrument that can help them overcome their awkward problem. They can overcome their loneliness and anxiety by mustering the courage to call up someone and talk to them for help and comfort.
The smartphone contributes to an age of superficial and self-centered relationships. Everything is concentrated upon the device, which becomes a medium through which so much is seen. People deprive themselves of the immense satisfaction of developing direct human interactions by refusing personal interaction. The bland screen also takes the place of those conflicts and arguments essential to building character and adding spice to life.
The Phone Lady may help a person overcome a concrete disability. However, she cannot resolve the moral problem of a culture of personal gratification and comfort. God created humans as social beings that find their fulfillment and sanctification in relationships with others. The smartphone’s preferential option for texting understandably leads to frustration and anxiety.
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Alas, the smartphone is not so smart.
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