Texting vs. In-person Communication and Calling

Texting vs. In-person Communication and Calling

Have you found yourself in the situation once where you stared at your phone, wrestling with the question – to text, to call, or…to meet in person?

For many, this can be a dilemma in the digital age.

In my article today, I will dive into this tech-imbued communication conundrum.

I will cover the twisting terrains of texting, tiptoeing into the echoing valleys of phone calls, and scaling the lofty peaks of in-person communication. 

You will learn about the treasures and pitfalls, the hiccups and high-fives of each communication form.

Sounds interesting?

Then please keep reading…


Digital Minimalism and the Benefits of Texting

One of the principles of digital minimalism is to thoughtfully select and limit your digital tools to add real value to your life instead of allowing them to control you. 

So how does texting fit into all of this, and does it bring any benefits regarding digital minimalism?

Texting is like a Swiss army knife of communication. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s right there in our pockets. 

Isn’t it magical how we can send a “Happy Birthday” text to a friend in Tokyo, confirm a meeting time with a coworker, and order pizza – all while waiting for the bus?

This brings us to the first benefit of texting in digital minimalism – efficiency. 

In the time it takes to arrange a call or personal meeting, you could send a text and move on with your day. 

Ever find yourself saying, “I don’t have time?” Well, texting can help you reclaim some of that precious commodity.

In addition, texting offers a level of discretion often lacking in other forms of communication

You can send and receive texts in a noisy place, an open office, or a quiet library without disturbing the peace.

However, you may not take advantage of one of the other benefits of texting…

So I have a little question: do you feel obligated to immediately respond when you receive a text? 

If you answered “yes,” we’ve stumbled upon a common misconception. 

Texting gives you the freedom to respond at your convenience

There’s an unspoken understanding that text messages don’t always warrant instant replies. 

This flexibility can help you manage digital communication without feeling tied to your devices.

However, if you feel obligated to reply immediately, this whole benefit of texting implodes.

Another point to consider is intentionality. 

In the world of minimalism, intentionality is key. 

It’s about making deliberate choices, and texting allows you to do just that. 

You can carefully consider your words before hitting “send,” leading to more meaningful conversations.

Then there is simplicity

Texting cuts through the noise. 

It eliminates unnecessary small talk and gets straight to the point. 

However, as with everything, texting also has its downsides, as you will learn further below…



Digital Minimalism and the Benefits of In-Person Communication and Calling

As I’m sure you’d agree, the first major benefit of in-person communication is the richness of human interaction. 

Remember the warmth you felt the last time you shared a laugh with a friend over coffee? 

Or how reassuring it was when a colleague gave you an understanding nod during a tough meeting? 

No emoji or text message can match the depth and nuance of in-person interactions.

In the realm of digital minimalism, choosing quality over quantity is key. 

As confirmed by a Washington Post article, in-person communication allows you to foster deeper, more meaningful relationships and usually makes teams perform better in a work environment

The same article mentions a study by researchers at MIT’s Human Dynamics Lab.

They invested hours and hours, which probably felt like forever, studying what drives performance. 

They dived headfirst into the heart of the action, gathering data through electronic badges that could pick up everything from how you modulate your voice to the subtleties of your body language.

What did they discover? 

They discovered nothing beats old-fashioned in-person communication, where the most fruitful exchanges happened not through screens or over the phone.

They didn’t stop there. 

They wanted numbers and specifics, and they got them. 

They discovered that about 35 percent of a team’s performance variation could be traced back to when the team members stood in the same room and talked: no texts, no calls, just person-to-person chats.

So during in-person communication, we need to be fully present with someone, actively listen, and respond with our entire being. 

And let’s not forget these high-quality interactions often reduce the desire for frequent, shallow digital communications. 

A deep, hearty conversation can be more fulfilling than a hundred text messages.

How about calling?

Some consider it old school, but a few powerful benefits shouldn’t be overlooked. 

Firstly, voice calls offer immediacy and clarity that can prevent misunderstandings

Have you ever read a text and wondered, “Are they being sarcastic or serious?” 

With voice, we can hear tone, pitch, and emphasis, which can help us decipher the message more accurately.

Secondly, there’s the benefit of focus

When you’re on a call, you’re engaged in the conversation. 

There’s less temptation to multitask compared to when you’re shooting off a text or an email. 

This focused interaction aligns well with the minimalist principle of being fully present.

And lastly, calling can be a time-saver

Have you ever been in a never-ending text conversation that could have been a 5-minute call? 

Sometimes, it’s quicker and more efficient to discuss things verbally.

Now, you might wonder, “Isn’t minimizing digital interaction the goal of digital minimalism?” 

And you’re right. 

The key is to remember that it’s not about eliminating digital tools but rather about using them in a way that aligns with your values and contributes positively to your life. 

Sometimes, that means opting for an in-person catch-up or a quick call over a barrage of text messages.


How Does Texting Affect in-Person Communication and Calls (6 Downsides of Texting)

Earlier, I discussed many of the upsides and benefits of texting relevant to digital minimalism. 

However, it’s a double-edged sword.

How so?

Texting can have a profound impact on traditional forms of communication.

One of the primary concerns is the potential for miscommunication (source). 

In a text message, you miss non-verbal cues such as facial expressions, gestures, and tone.

These aspects can convey as much, if not more, information than words alone. 

Ever read a text and thought, “Are they joking, or are they mad at me?” 

In-person conversations and phone calls usually provide a richer, more nuanced communication experience.

Then, we can’t ignore the distraction factor

How often have you been conversing face-to-face when a text message pops up? 

If you are a digital minimalist already, you may not have this problem since notifications should be already deactivated…

But if not, the constant beep and buzz of texts can fragment your attention, making meaningful, focused conversations challenging.

This can be even more detrimental when you are not distracted from a face-to-face conversation but from driving, as is confirmed in this study

Speaking of focus, have you ever found yourself paying more attention to your virtual conversation than the person sitting right before you? 

This phenomenon, often referred to as ‘phubbing’ (phone snubbing), can harm relationships and lead to feelings of neglect and dissatisfaction.

There’s also the risk of over-reliance on texting

It can sometimes become a crutch, especially for those who find face-to-face interactions or phone calls anxiety-inducing. 

Over time, this reliance can inhibit the development of critical social and interpersonal skills.

In addition, texting might lead to delayed responses, which can be frustrating and hinder immediate decision-making-

This is much easier with calls or face-to-face interactions.

Lastly, there’s the psychological impact

The immediate gratification of receiving a text message can lead to some sort of addiction, causing you to constantly check your phone and prioritize virtual communication over real-life interactions.


The Effects of Texting, In-Person Communication, and Calling in Relationships

Texting vs. In-person Communication and Calling

Communication is at the heart of any romantic, friendly, or professional relationship. 

How you communicate can profoundly affect the quality and health of your relationships. 

Let’s dive into how texting, in-person communication, and calling can play a role.


1) Texting

Studies suggest that while texting can be an efficient way to communicate logistics, excessive texting can lead to decreased relationship satisfaction. 

According to this paper, high levels of texting can create misunderstandings in relationships, as I discussed earlier. 

And relying heavily on texting might create an illusion of connection without the depth of more direct communication forms.


2) In-Person Communication 

In-Person communication allows for a rich exchange of verbal and non-verbal cues, leading to a deeper understanding and connection. 

The same paper above suggests that face-to-face conversations lead to greater satisfaction in relationships than other forms of communication. 

However, high-quality in-person interactions require effort and dedicated time, something not always possible in busy lives.


3) Calling

Phone calls can get you the best of both worlds: texting and in-person communication. 

They allow for a direct and immediate conversation without requiring physical presence. 

Voice inflections can give an extra layer of meaning, reducing chances for misunderstandings. 

Let me share a juicy tidbit from the Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes publication in March 2022. 

I found it mentioned on Forbes.

The researchers analyzed a sea of data, and what they fished out is a fascinating insight into modern-day communication habits.

Do you know that feeling when tapping away at your keyboard, sending email after email, or shooting off instant messages like a digital cowboy? 

And then, when it comes to complex tasks like decision-making, negotiating, or solving a problem, you continue your texting spree…

The above study shows this might not be the best approach. 

It turns out that this digital overdrive can take the wind out of your sails for work that you start after the conversation ends. 

Your interest could dip, and your performance might take a hit.

The phone is the better option for these more complex communication cases (e.g., negotiations, problem-solving, etc.)


What Happens When Someone Texts a Lot But Is Awkward in Person?

Ever met someone who’s a total rockstar when it comes to texting, but in person, they seem as comfortable as a cat in water? 

They can craft text messages as Shakespeare wrote sonnets, but face-to-face, they fumble their words like they’re trying to juggle slippery fish. 

That’s quite a conundrum…

They have a superpower that works only in the digital world. However, their kryptonite is in-person interaction. 

Why does this happen?

It’s the unique characteristics of texting as a medium. 

Texting provides a certain level of detachment. 

It’s like having a conversation behind a screen…literally. 

It’s less immediate and personal, offering time to compose and edit thoughts before sending. 

You can even use emojis and GIFs to express emotions that you might struggle to put into words in person.

Now, translate these texters into the real world, and it’s like yanking a fish out of water. 

In-person communication or phone calls are much more spontaneous. 

There’s no backspace key to erase a poorly phrased sentence. 

There are no emojis to hide behind. 

And, of course, there’s the added complexity: body language, facial expressions, and voice tone.

You can compare it to driving an automatic car and then being handed the keys to a manual transmission vehicle. 

So people accustomed to communicating through text might struggle with the intricacies of in-person communication. 

That’s okay and to be expected…Skills, like muscles, can be developed with practice.

This essay confirms that heavy texting can lead to eroding social skills. 

But this isn’t a life sentence. 

Social skills like driving the earlier manual transmission car can be learned and honed with time and practice.

Remember, it’s perfectly fine if you’re a texting superstar but turn into a mumbling mouse in person. 

To avoid getting rusty in-person communication skills, striking a balance between different communication modes is key. 


Pro & Con Overview of Texting, In-Person Communication, and Calling

In the earlier sections, I went pretty much all over the place with the pros and cons of texting vs. in-person communication and calling.

So, I prepared three overview tables below so you can compare the pros and cons of all three modes of communication more easily.

1. Convenient and efficient: Quick messages can be sent any time, anywhere.1. Risk of miscommunication: Lacks tone, voice inflection, and body language.
2. Time to compose thoughts: You can take your time to craft your response.2. Delays: Not ideal for urgent matters as responses may not be immediate.
3. Lower pressure: Can be less anxiety-inducing than a call or face-to-face conversation for some people.3. Over-reliance: Can inhibit development of face-to-face social skills.
4. Record of conversation: Easy to refer back to past messages.4. Distractions: Can interrupt face-to-face interactions or tasks.
5. Non-intrusive: The recipient can read and respond at their convenience.5. Emotional disconnect: Can create an illusion of connection without emotional depth.


Why Do People Text Instead of Calling Back?

The reason why people text instead of calling back is five-fold. It’s because of convenience, control, comfort, clarity, and a cultural shift.

Let’s elaborate a bit on these five… 

Convenience: Texting can happen anytime, anywhere. 

It’s the perfect solution for quick check-ins, updates, or sharing simple information. 

Unlike calls, texts don’t demand immediate attention, which suits our often hectic modern lives. 

Got a meeting? 

No problem, you can still send a quick text underneath the conference table (though I’d recommend paying attention to the meeting…).

Control: With texting, you control when you respond and what you say. 

Got a text while you’re in the middle of binge-watching your favorite show? 

You can wait till the episode ends to respond. With a call, you’re put on the spot.

Comfort: For some, texting is less anxiety-inducing than phone calls. 

Ever had that moment of panic when you see a call coming in and you’re not mentally prepared for a conversation? 

Texts don’t have that pressure. 

You can take your time to craft a response, and there’s less room for awkward silence.

However, as I said earlier, you may have a level of anxiety that gives you the feeling or impression that you have to answer immediately always.

Clarity: Texts provide a written record of the conversation. 

Ever got off a call and thought, “Wait, what did we agree on?” With texts, you can always go back and check.

Cultural Shift: As digital natives become the majority, the scales have tipped favor of texting. 

So, while there’s a time and place for calls, many find texting a more convenient, low-pressure, and efficient method of communication. 

As I discussed earlier, a call or face-to-face conversation can sometimes express more than a text. It’s all about using the right tool for the situation at hand.

But when to do what form of communication?

Let’s check that out…


To Text or Not to Text, That Is the Question…

This question plays right into two principles of digital minimalism I discussed, for instance, in my article “From Digital Clutter to 17 Benefits of Digital Minimalism“.

It’s intentionality regarding which technologies you use (here, communication forms) and mindful usage. 

In the latter’s case, it would be using texting, in-person communication, or calling, according to their purpose. 

To make this easier for you, I developed a simplified decision tree…


Text Messages Vs Calling

Again, this decision tree is a simplified model and doesn’t account for all possible scenarios or personal preferences. 

However, I hope it can serve you as a general guide to applying the two digital minimalism principles and deciding the best mode of communication based on the urgency, complexity, and feasibility of a face-to-face meeting.



This article has been reviewed by our editorial team. It has been approved for publication per our editorial policy.