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My sons and I no longer talk.
I don’t mean to suggest that we’ve had a relationship breakdown. It’s just that, for the most part, instead of talking, we text.
My situation is not unique. According to the Washington Post, a Maryland couple, Jane Beard and Jeffrey Davis, found they had accumulated more than 28,700 unused minutes on their AT&T account because they text their kids rather than talk to them. “None of the kids call us back! They will not call you back,” said Beard.
What’s happening with talk and text – also known as SMS, or Short Message Service – is not unlike the effect email has had on snail mail and fax.
“A generation of e-mailing, followed by an explosion in texting, has pushed the telephone conversation into serious decline, creating new tensions between baby boomers and Millennials — those in their teens, 20s and early 30s,” said the Washington Post.
“The telephone call is a dying institution. The number of text messages sent monthly in the U.S. exploded from 14 billion in 2000 to 188 billion in 2010, according to a Pew Institute survey, and the trend shows no signs of abating,” said Time magazine. “Not all of that growth has come out of the hide of old-fashioned phoning, but it is clearly taking a bite – particularly among the young.”
Time indicated that Americans ages 18-29 send and receive roughly 88 text messages per day, compared to 17 phone calls. The overall frequency declines the older we get, but even among those 65 and over, daily texting still edges calling by a ratio of 5:3.
Statistics Support Text to Talk Preference
A Time poll on mobility found 32% of respondents said they’d rather communicate by text than phone, even with people they know very well. A number of statistics support that conjecture:
- Smartphone owners aged 18-24 send and receive 4,000 messages per month (Factbrowser)
- 43% of 18-24 year-olds say that texting is just as meaningful as an actual conversation with someone over the phone (eMarketer 2010)
- 42% of teens say the primary reason they have a cell phone is for texting. Safety was second at 35% (Nielsen Study 2010)
- 39% of Millennials have a tattoo (Pew Study 2010) – Okay, that has nothing to do with texting and talking, but it seems that everyone under the age of 35 wears one, which is something I find very puzzling and the reason I mentioned it.
Lest I am accused of stereotyping, it’s not just Millennials who like to text. So do the rest of us.
Statistics reveal that US smartphone owners who use text (that’s 92 percent) send an average of 111 messages per week, and 49 percent of those who use social media daily would rather text than call a person.
Millennials: Talk and Text Workplace Balance
Among Millennials, the preference for use of text messaging also extends to the workplace. “The Gen Y (another term for Millennials) worker is the best at using technology to communicate at work. But, this emerging, young workforce is the worst with interpersonal communication. Gen Y would rather text than talk,” said Dr. Nancy Kovanic, a business professional and college professor.
(This is precisely the reason Bizzuka developed Thinbox, our mobile group messaging application. It enables workplace communication via text, PUSH notification, email and social media.)
However, it’s not a one-size-fits-all. A survey of more than 40,000 people worldwide found that Millennials are practically old fashion when it comes to their professional lives. Along with members of Generation X (born 1965 to 1981), the overwhelming choice is face-to-face meetings as the top choice of workplace communication.
“[C]ommunicating through face-to-face meetings is critically important to maintaining relationships at work – the highest rating of all and greater than phone, email, instant messaging, texting, social network sites and video chat,” reported the survey.
Bizzuka Staff Weigh In on Talk Vs Text Debate
As part of my research for this post, I queried some of the younger Bizzuka staff members and asked them about their communication preferences both at work and in their personal lives. Here’s how they responded.
“I use text and instant messaging at work because they allow me to carry on multiple conversations simultaneously. They are no substitutes for face-to-face meeting time, but they make collaborative projects flow smoothly. At home, I use texting when I need a yes/no answer and for scheduling face time with my friends and family.” ~ Nick Mouledous, Marketing Coordinator
“I prefer a phone call if I need to speak with someone for a long conversation or if I have not spoken with them in a while, but for a quick short question or response that is less than a sentence, I prefer text.” ~ Natasha Melder, Client Relations Specialist
“I prefer talk over text, however, I text more than I talk. Why do I text more than talk if I prefer that more? It’s easier. The ability to reach for your phone and type out a message and shoot it over to someone within a seconds notice is far easier than having to pick up the phone and have a conversation with that person.” ~ Billy Hobbs, Internet Marketing Intern
“For personal use, I prefer texting versus talking on the phone (if it’s not time sensitive). But if it’s something I need an answer for right away, or it’s very detailed, I’ll pick up the phone. Also, I tend to keep my texts down to a realistic, digestible size, and avoid the ‘wall of text.’
“For internal workplace communication, I use email, instant messaging, in-person meetings, video chat, and phone/voice. For client communication, I use all of those, except instant messaging. I would never consider using instant messaging or text messages as a way to communicate with a client.” ~ Patrick LaBauve, Internet Marketing Coordinator
Reasons We Text Instead of Talk
In addition to those cited by the Bizzuka staff, there are a number of reasons why people prefer text to talk. Here are five that make sense.
1. Privacy. People can overhear phone conversations.
2. Permanence. Text is stored on the phone memory as opposed to talk, which is stored in the sometimes less reliable (at least in my case) human memory.
3. Preparation. Text gives people time to think about how to respond. Speech is instantaneous.
4. Power. The immediacy of a phone calls strips a person of control that they have when texting.
5. Politeness. Phone calls are by their very nature impolite; more of an interruption than the tone associated with an arriving text. Plus, the caller may be inconsiderate and not respect the other party’s time.
(Here are 10 other reasons people choose to text than talk.)
Good Reasons to Talk Instead of Text
Of course, there are equally as many good reasons to talk instead of text – autocorrect being one.
Another is RSI, which stands for Repetitive Strain Injury, a debilitating condition resulting from the repeated movement of a particular part of the body. (I thought the term for that was “exercise.” In this case, however, it refers to thumbs.)
Speaking of injury, texting while driving isn’t the brightest thing to do, and neither is walking, apparently.
Yet another reason we shouldn’t abandon talking altogether is that much of what makes communication effective is lost in a text. You don’t get the nuance that comes with vocal inflections, plus messages are much shorter – 140 characters in some cases.
For example, while a texted apology is capable of transmitting a message, it lacks the context to convey meaning and emotion fully; something the human voice is capable of doing.
There are a lot of reasons people text each other, and just as many why they chose to talk instead. For some, it comes down to a matter of professionalism instead of preference. Or, as Bizzuka marketing coordinator Nick Mouledous put it, “Let people do what comes naturally, or enable them to.”