Originally published: October 18, 2010
Last updated: October 18, 2010 - 2:24pm
Nielsen analyzed cellphone bills of 60,000 mobile subscribers and found adults made and received an average of 188 mobile phone calls a month in the 2010 period, down 25% from the same period three years earlier. Average monthly "talk minutes" fell 5% for the period compared with 2009; among 18- to 24-year-olds, the decline was 17%.
Text messages -- also known as SMS (Short Message Service) -- take up less bandwidth than phone calls and cost less. A recent survey of 2,000 college students asked about their attitudes toward phone calls and text-messaging and found the students' predominant goal was to pass along information in as little time, with as little small talk, as possible. Part of what's driving the texting surge among adults is the popularity of social media. Sites like Twitter, with postings of no more than 140 characters, are creating and reinforcing the habit of communicating in micro-bursts. And these sites also are pumping up sheer volume. Economics has much to do with texting's popularity. Text messages cost carriers less than traditional mobile voice transmissions, and so they cost users less.
Texting's rise over conversation is changing the way we interact, social scientists and researchers say. We default to text to relay difficult information. We stare at our phone when we want to avoid eye contact. Rather than make plans in advance, we engage in what Rich Ling, a researcher for the European telecom company Telenor and a professor at IT University in Copenhagen who studies teens and technology, has named "micro-coordination"—"I'll txt u in 10mins when I know wh/ restrnt." Texting saves us time, but it steals from quiet reflection.