How The Hand Gesture For Talking On The Phone Has Changed

Daniel Alvarado's TikTok post has done the circuit, making headlines on HuffPost, Fox News, and BuzzFeed. When something hits platforms that diverse, you know something's up. And that's because Alvarado's video (via TikTok), which has racked up more than 307,000 likes to date, encapsulates something we've all been whispering about since 2007, when smartphones started taking over our lives (via Science Node).  

There's a name for humanity's collective addiction to smartphones. It's called nomophobia (via HelpGuide). Like other addictions, it's linked to increased anxiety, stress, sleep problems, and even narcissism. And now there's a hand gesture, too. It's there to remind us that the smartphone has permanently changed the world we live in today. Alvarado's video proved it. 

How do you signal with your hands that you're talking on the phone? If you raise your hand to your cheek, extending your pinky and your thumb, you're a Baby Boomer. Or, perhaps you're Gen X. Maybe you're even an older Millennial. You grew up in an age where you fought with your siblings for the privilege to use your corded, banana-shaped phone to leave a voice message on your crush's answering machine. A voice message, imagine. 

How Gen Z makes the hand gesture for talking on the phone

How does Gen Z — a generation so addicted to technology that they risk personal safety — signal that they're on the phone? They do what Alvarado's kids did on his TikTok video. They lift a hand, palm flat, to their ears, as if they were talking on a smartphone. But wait, that's not all. As BuzzFeed observed, kids these days have no idea why you'd need to "hang up" a phone either. "Mind-blowing," says Alvarado. And really, it is. 

It's not just about generational shifts in communications that are leaving everyone over 25 years old feeling like they're in the Paleolithic age. (If a Gen Z tried to signal to a Baby Boomer, "hey, call me," all they'd likely get in response is, "does your face hurt, darling?") No, Alvarez's video signals something much more mind-boggling: a shift to a world where our everyday, physical lives are defined by the applications we've installed onto a small, flat rectangle with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities. Not everybody's been asked along for the ride.