Telecoms can be a somewhat dry subject at times so when I recently tripped across a news release which made me giggle I decided it was my responsibility to share it with you.
BT recently carried out a survey (Starkers Talkers) asking what British people did while they were using the phone. Most interesting (in a purely scientific way) is the fact that 49% of British people are happy to talk on the telephone while naked in the privacy of their own home.
Before I go further I should save the blushes of myself and other Brits by adding that, whilst the results are from a survey of British phone users, I can think of no good reason why they would not be similarly valid in other parts of the world. I do not believe that the British would be any more predisposed to naked telephony than other similar cultures.
This BT survey also outlines the fact that 25% of British people have used the phone to pretend that they were somewhere else while 83% carry out others activities while on the phone (although those "other activities" apparently include watching TV which is, I would suggest, hardly an activity).
A spokesperson from BT commented that:
Talking on the phone is an everyday activity for most people, what’s interesting about this research is the variety of different ways in which we go about it. Some of the facts revealed here might make us think about our phone calls a bit more and start to wonder what the person at the other end of the line is actually doing!
What is more interesting for me is the fact that this survey shows us that, while we use the phone as a tool to open up the world by enabling us to communicate with almost anyone, anywhere and at any time, we simultaneously use its limitations (i.e. its non-visual nature) as a cloak to hide behind and to retain some element of our own personal privacy in an increasingly open world. The fact that people cannot actually see where we are, what we are doing or our facial expressions creates a veil of privacy within which we feel secure.
Maybe this veil of privacy explains why, despite the fact that webcams are cheaper than they have ever been, only about 15% of my Skype contacts have (or admit to having) a webcam. Maybe, in a world of increasingly open communications, most people find video calling just a little to open for comfort.
So I’m left wondering whether videophones and video mobiles will continue to be seen as simply Sci-Fi movies gadgets or will the potential of 3G and FMC enabled handsets be fully realized to allow us to see who we are talking to ? Do we want to see who we are talking to or, more to the point, do they want us to see them ?
In the meantime, please be patient when calling the UK; if we take a long time to answer we may just be making ourselves a little more presentable before we pick up the phone !