For the first year, I’ve found myself watching Channel 4’s The Circle, and it’s fascinating to see how the players interact with one other by text message alone. I was unsure what to expect, originally wondering whether the messages would be by voice rather than text. However, now more familiar with the game, I see that couldn’t be the case due to so many “catfish” players. For those of you who have better things to do with their evening, a catfish is someone pretending to be someone else. There is a young man playing a single mother, two players playing an older lady and a lady playing a stereotypical white male. The players interact with one another, with no idea of who is really behind the messages being sent.
What intrigues me most are the interactions between players and how by purely using text allows people to convey one thing, when they really mean another. For example one player “Georgina” was really annoyed with “Tim” after he booted out her friend; they had a chat about it which ended with Tim saying to himself “I think we may be a little bit closer,” whereas Georgina’s view was “I’ve got my eye on him.” This is one of numerous examples of players understanding one thing, when in actuality the true sentiment was very different.
This surely relates to business as well. With so many companies opting for text interactions over voice, how can anyone truly be certain of the sentiment on either agent or customer side. With voiceless interactions void of emotion, you could be catfishing your customers?
Voice is still one of the best ways to build a relationship with people, second only to face to face meetings, and yet more and more companies are taking the chatbot route over picking up the phone and speaking with their valued customers. If there was a problem wouldn’t you want a resolution as quickly as possible, and as a provider, don’t you want to calm your potentially unhappy customer with a reassuring human voice over a chatbot that has a set number of responses? Personally, I prefer to interact with a human over a robot!
Then there is phone anxiety which is fast becoming a real thing. Children only text their friends and wait avidly for the two blue ticks to show their message has been read―when they could get an immediate answer if only they were to call instead of text. This also relates to the older generation who are now anxious to convey their problems over the phone and will happily get a relative to do it for them.
So when did we become afraid to talk to each other? We really are losing the art of conversation!
Whilst the Circle is entertaining as a social experiment, it is concerning that this is the world we live in today. Where does it end? Who wants to be a millionaire gives you three options, one of them to phone a friend – will that become text a friend and hope they answer in time? Will we go on a date and text that person, rather than speak to them? You already see enough people at restaurants on their phones rather than have a good old natter, or even worse, you’re sat in the living room with family and everyone is looking at their phones. Psychology Today wrote a piece on this subject, asking when did we stop talking to each other? The author believes that our addiction to smartphones has caused our inability to connect with one another, and I believe she is right. I personally include myself in this addiction―with two smartphones which I regularly check. Now I certainly don’t believe we should give up our smartphones, but how can we start talking to each other again?
The telephone was invented in 1876 and it changed the world, bringing people closer through voice. Can it really be that as we head towards 2020, it is becoming obsolete?
Earlier this year The Telegraph wrote a piece about the death of the landline, stating that Brits are using their home phone half as much as they did in 2012. However, the average person’s demand for instant messaging has increased from 0.2 gigabytes to 1.9 gigabytes during the same period. I still remember my very first home phone number, but the need to remember a phone number off by heart has gone. We are now completely reliant on a device that has become an extension of our hand.
I believe voice still very much has a place both socially and in business. I for one will continue to watch the Circle and enjoy the comical text based chats between characters that have never met and may never meet, but in the meantime, perhaps I’ll pick up my phone and speak to a friend, rather than text them.
—Tracy Ryan, Global Marketing Director, Natterbox