Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been difficult for consumers to gather with their friends and loved ones face-to-face. Though gathering virtually has become easier than ever, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Texas at Austin explored what types of virtual communication left consumers feeling the most connected to the people in their lives.
The study revealed that phone calls were the best way for consumers to feel connected and bond with their friends or family, more so than any type of texting-based communication.
“People feel significantly more connected through voice-based media, but they have these fears about awkwardness that are pushing them towards text-based media,” said researcher Amit Kumar. “When it came to actual experience, people reported they did form a significantly stronger bond with their old friend on the phone versus email, and they did not feel more awkward.”
The researchers conducted two experiments to determine what form of communication best served consumers who were trying to stay connected to their family or friends. One experiment paired strangers with various types of communication -- including video chat, phone call, or texting -- and had them ask deeply personal questions to one another. The other experiment gauged how participants felt reconnecting with an old friend via phone call or email, and then had them do just that.
In both instances, phone calls came out on top in terms of building connection. Whether with a stranger or an old friend, hearing someone’s voice was an integral component of feeling a real connection, which is something that was lost over text or email.
For both tests, the researchers asked participants about various styles of communication, both in terms of what they preferred and what they believed would produce the best results. All of the participants felt that the form of communication wasn’t as important as what was being said, which made these results all the more surprising.
Moving forward, the researchers hope that consumers use these findings to feel more connected to their loved ones, especially as in-person gatherings are still limited.
“We’re being asked to maintain physical distance, but we still need these social ties for our well-being -- even for our health,” said Kumar.