Students choose webcam over phone calls

Summary:Since many of you decided to whinge and whine about my previous article, I thought I'd go with something a little simpler for the masses. The first rule of mass media is of course, "give the people what they want.

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Since many of you decided to whinge and whine about my previous article, I thought I'd go with something a little simpler for the masses. The first rule of mass media is of course, "give the people what they want." [Tomorrow Never Dies, 1997].

After much thought and consideration, the "standard" technology students use hasn't changed much in the last 5 or 6 years and it made me think why. Nothing really new has come onto the market which hails a significant difference to our lives. That is, until the webcam shot to fame in the late 90's/early 00's.

The Independent, well known for its impartial journalism, reported that instant messaging and webcam use, presumably also other online communications such as Facebook and other social networking, seems to be favoured amongst students as opposed to the phone call.

I have two theories:

  1. Students have grown up in a world where text messaging, especially, is the norm. We don't think twice about "whopping out a text" to someone - it is well and truly embedded in our society. Having to call someone worries many (from experience as a human) because you can't gap-in-the-conversation; whereas texting and instant messaging allows a latency which seems perfectly acceptable.
  2. It's easier. Many who use instant messaging use webcams, sometimes for flirtatious reasons, but more common than not, it's to personify the experience. By seeing the person you're "talking" to adds a layer to the communication and makes it feel more personal.

If students favour the non-phone method of communication, this could have an impact on to the future generation. Considering students are the next generation of IT users and employees, if the next generation don't feel comfortable talking on the phone, what's the point in having a phone?

Having a cell phone has in recent times been a status symbol, an icon for fashion and celebrity. I personally like making phone calls; having full-blown Tourette's makes it interesting at times, especially when you shout out a concatenated string of extremely offensive swear words to a member of the Royal family, but hey, whoever said a life-long neurological condition couldn't have an upside?

The truth of the matter is, the cell phone is an amazing tool; a vital part of everyone's lives, not just students. We use them everyday for calls, text messages, video calls and mobile web, but also if we get into a pickle-of-a-situation, an emergency call is seconds away - cell phones have saved lives. Even with the vast expansion in webcam use and online communications, nothing will replace a cell phone for a very long time.

It makes me think though, mixing webcams and phone calls - video calls. Why doesn't that seem to have taken off? When 3G hit the world, there was all the hype about video calling from your cell phone, but I don't think I've ever seen anyone use 3G for that; only getting a fast mobile connection, usually for another device.

Let me know what you think:

[poll id=5]

Topics: Telcos, Mobility

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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