Here’s a news flash for you, kids these days aren’t doing it right. I’m pretty sure that ever since the first human communities came out of caves to live in the light of day they’ve been complaining how their children, “have it so easy,” and they, “don’t know what it was like to grow up in the caves.” Sure, the youth can seem annoying, unappreciative, even downright reckless, but they also end up being responsible for coming-up with some great contributions, too.
Rock and Roll, AirBnB, the Free Speech Movement, Sallie Mae, and even Pop Tarts (obviously important) all developed directly from or for a younger generation that was behaving in a way that was different than those before it. Whether it was the growing amount of dually-employed parents needing faster, easier ways to provide breakfast, or a bunch of college students in Berkeley standing-up against things they thought weren’t right, youth impacts our development more than some might think. Young Americans are, in fact, the largest contributor to the economy by a long shot, and spend about 87% of their income, which doesn’t account for gifts and dispersals from family. Of course, this doesn’t mean that I understand the whole fascination with the Kardashians or Miley Cyrus any more than I did before, but at least it puts youth behavior into the context of how it contributes to disruptive change and shaping our society, regardless of whether or not we can recognize it at the time.
One of the unique developments from the current crop of the nation’s youngest members, however, isn’t a new musical genre or tasty breakfast treat; in fact it isn’t even a development at all. Yet.
More Connection, Less Conversation
Millennials use their phones more than any other demographic, but in spite of that frequency, they use phones to actually place telephone calls less than anyone else as well. It is believed the trend of texting over calling stems from the popularization of instant messaging platforms like AIM and MSN Messenger, but regardless of its origin, this trend is becoming more and more pronounced.
Cited as a major factor in the reasons for telephone call abandonment by many young smartphone owners is the speed with which other forms of communication offer over that of traditional phone calls. Texting, Facebook messaging, and other popular message apps like WhatsApp, and Apple’s iMessenger are wildly preferred for their immediacy. In fact, many outgoing voicemail messages for young people no longer include requests for pertinent details to be left in the voicemail, but rather offer suggestions to text or email for quicker replies.
Radio Silence Effects Service
Early in 2014, the New York Times reported on how voicemail usage, and even initial voicemail activation and set-up, is dropping by 8-14% a year for many mobile service providers. This, in combination with an overall drop in voice minutes in general, is a major contributor to mobile companies offering more unlimited minutes as a feature in their service plans. To differentiate themselves, many major carriers are now offering Visual Voicemail to their service plans, in response to their customers’ unlikeliness to utilize traditional voicemail features. And in somewhat of a gambit by going against the constricting policies on data plans, some carriers are revisiting versions of unlimited or banked data plans again. T-Mobile has a new “rollover” plan where unrealized data usage gets carried over into the following month and AT&T has been quick to follow suit. All of these changes, some of which are rather risky for the companies involved, are all directly linked to the grossly disproportionate use of messaging over voice communications.
We don’t necessarily need to look far beyond the changes in mobile service plans to see how these behaviors are changing communications. One particularly popular method for young people to communicate by is ephemeral messaging. Originally vilified for its impermanence as being the channel through which young people would send inappropriate messages to one another, ephemeral messaging is gaining popularity in other demographics. Found to be an effective way to add security to business communications, ephemeral messaging is evolving to become more appealing to users who value data security as much as whimsical, impermanent messaging.
The final effects of the declination of voice services are obviously yet to be fully realized, but it is clear that this behavioral shift is substantially impacting the telecommunications industry. While that future remains uncertain, I am clear on at least one issue; I still haven’t set-up my own voicemail from a number I got in August, maybe you should try and text me instead.