News of the un-newsy kind this week, fresh from an Ofcom study designed to confirm a belief in our worst selves: we are a nation addicted to smartphones but are repelled by the idea of making or taking voice calls.
Is this the death of conversation? Not quite, but it’s certainly more than a blip in the cultural history of communication: in 2017, for the first time, the number of voice calls – remember, those things you did with your actual voice on your actual phone – fell in the UK. Meanwhile, internet addiction keeps growing, presumably because we haven’t quite worked out what to do with all those hours we’re saving on talking.
More than three-quarters (78%) of British adults own a smartphone, and we check them on average every 12 minutes. That adds up to 24 hours a week online via our phones – much of that time swallowed up by modern-style chat on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, with some left over for texting. It has taken a toll on talking, sure, but few smartphone users might claim to feel less connected as a result.