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Despite improvements in video conferencing and VoIP technologies, and despite the fact that more people have cell phones now than ever before, we just aren’t speaking to each other as often. For example, 99% of Americans have cell phones, but spend 26 minutes per day texting and only 6 minutes on calls. In fact, the first ever decline in global mobile voice usage occurred in 2013 and that trend is likely to continue. How does your talking and texting stack up against the averages?

This may not come as a shock, but about 1 out of every 4 people socializes more online than in person, 32% of people would rather text you than talk to you, and a whopping 51% of teens would rather communicate digitally than in person (even with friends).

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 4.02.59 PM

 

Cell phones are ubiquitous and wireless networks are sweeping across Africa and South Asia, but people use their cell phones for non-vocal communication significantly more than for calls (sometimes even double).

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 3.49.58 PM

 

As you can imagine, these stats do vary slightly from country to country. In the UK, for example, 90% of 16 to 24-year-olds exchange texts with friends and family at least once a day, followed by social networking at 74%, mobile phone calls at 67%, and face-to-face contact at 63%.

Predictably, email is still the most frequently used form of non-vocal communication, but that may change very soon.

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 3.50.12 PM

 

This non-vocal trend started, at least in part, because of the spread of the internet. Internet usage saw a meteoric rise from 44 million in 1995, to over 3 billion in 2015. And non-vocal communication followed suit.  For perspective, an average of 0.4 texts were sent per month in 1995.  Today, there are over 193,000 messages sent per second, and that’s just via SMS.

Growth of internet

 

Keep in mind that the spread of internet communication has been worldwide. In fact, Asia now accounts for nearly half of all internet usage.  And as the internet spreads, verbal communication tends to trend downward.

Internet users

 

But is a decline in verbal communication a bad thing? It depends on who you ask.

43% of 18-24 year-olds say that texting is just as meaningful as an actual conversation with someone over the phone.  Also, though we aren’t “speaking” as often, we are “talking” now more than ever.

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 3.47.23 PM

 

Though the trends are clear, the future is relatively uncertain. 80% of millennials still think that speaking face-to-face is the most important form of communication in the workplace.

How do your communication habits stack up against the trends above? Do you think this trend is good or bad? Leave a comment below.

Subscribe at the top of the page or follow me on Twitter @dnlRussell.

Sources:
Corilyn Shropshire, Americans prefer texting to talking, report says, Chicago Tribune (March 26, 2015).
How Teens Communicate, Washington Post (June 26, 2012).
Texting more popular than face-to-face conversation, Daily Telegraph (July 18, 2012).
Jeffrey Kluger, We never talk any more: The problem with text messaging, CNN.com (accessed 7/13/15).

Categories: Attentiv Best Practices

25 Comments

  1. Elis James and John Robins on XFM

    07-14-2015 Reply

    You just HAVE to be on email, these days.

    • Adib Choudhury

      07-14-2015

      Very true! Seems like if you’re going to be active on anything online, you need an email account to register. Thanks for reading!

  2. Andre

    07-14-2015 Reply

    I think this shows a real decline in modern society. What kind of people would prefer to sit around doing nothing to going out and meeting friends! Makes me fear for our future.

    • Rusty King

      07-17-2015

      It all depends on how you look at it. What if I enjoy meeting people from all over the world rather than my current locale? I can’t afford to fly out and meet new friends.

    • Ericka

      09-05-2015

      My grandparents thought tv watching was doing nothing. My parents thought playing video games was doing nothing. Staying home doing nothing is cheaper than driving all over burning up gas at $3 or more a gallon. It was more fun to meet people when gas was cheaper than my cell phone plan.

  3. Lottie

    07-14-2015 Reply

    I think there is nothing to fear. People who love to laugh will always find places and people to meet because it is easy for them.

    • Mickey

      02-10-2016

      I much prefer informative articles like this to that high brow literature.

  4. IAmAnonymous

    07-16-2015 Reply

    The reason for this is simple, in my view. Verbal communication is coercive and dehumanizing. A large range of personality and ideological differences are played out in tone of voice, facial expression, emotional register, response time, and so on. The individual is vulnerable to the preconceptions and automatic judgments of others, and thus does not truly feel free to be themselves. In reality, there is an enormous existential pressure to conform to thought norms and stereotypes of others, to say the right thing at the right time, to the right people, and so on. All this has a tendency to subtly manipulate the person into behaving in ways that are more or less at odds with who they take their true self to be in essence.

    This kind of distressing force doesn’t manifest as strongly in the world of online, asynchronous communication. You have more time to think through what you truly intend to say. There is less pressure to behave inauthentically. And in fact, far more can be said as the interaction is mediated by what we know about the internet, and are able to communicate through the internet. Who the person is in their more intimate internal life is more easily expressed and less prone to the kind of distortion and scrutiny that would many keep their thoughts to themselves in most other contexts. All of these issues play into people’s preferences for why they avoid face-to-face or strictly verbal communication.

    The simple truth why text rather than speak? It’s liberating.

    • Steven

      07-29-2015

      On point response here. It truly is liberating to talk through text in my own experience, for many of the reasons you outline.

    • David

      08-05-2015

      I also think that often people will try to speak to drown others out, especially in a group setting. A text system allows the quiet, slow, calculating individual to contribute.

    • Jason

      08-05-2015

      I tend to disagree with your viewpoint, in my opinion you’re focusing on only the negative aspects of verbal communication and none of the positive, while it may be a contributing factor toward the trends in this blog I think the reasons are much simpler.

      IMO the reason we’re seeing these trends is because technology has and continues to become more mainstream. Turn back the clock 15 years or so I was paying 35c for an SMS message, MMS didn’t exist and the Internet was nowhere near as user-friendly as what we see now. We now live in an age where a 70 year old can send a text message or email without any assistance – why? Not because they’ve grown sick and tired of face to face communication but because the technology is finally reached a point where it’s usable and no longer intimidating for them.

      Electronic communication works for the most part, but there will always be scenarios where email or other non verbal communication will slow down the process of achieving a result, not to mention the increased opportunity for deception when communicating electronically.

    • Ericka

      09-05-2015

      I know quite a few people who work second jobs to make ends meet. The teachers and nurses I know put in long hours. (My grandmother did not work and spent hours on the phone). Some of the people I know get so little time that I would feel like I was imposing if I called and wanted to talk for more than 10 minutes. People used to love to talk to me in person. I am funny and cheer people up. That was before everyone got careers, spouses, children, mortgages etc. We went to coffee shops and talked. Then after the age of 21they ditched the coffee shops for bars. I gravitated towards churches (which have coffee and conversation) to meet people.

      I live in a rural area turned suburban (roads but no sidewalks). There are many more people driving on the roads. Busy Busy Busy. People do not talk as much face to face here compared to when I visit my relatives in the south.

      There could be multiple factors why people may prefer electronic communication. I have heard of persons fasting from their electronic devices. They have taken a break and gained a new perspective on their habits of communication.

    • Renee

      06-08-2016

      You make a very convincing point. I’m still sad that face-to-face is dying out, but I’m sad because it used to be so much more satisfying than it is now, or perhaps that’s the way it seemed to me then. You shed light on problems I hadn’t thought of: perhaps it’s inauthentic, shallow, and pathetically contrived verbal communication that is driving young people to basically boycott face-to-face communication. It’s exhausting to be “in costume” all day, every day.

      It leaves us all to wonder–who are these people we talk to every day? They’re opening their mouths, but telling me nothing. Also, why talk when no one will listen? I find that most people don’t give you time to answer questions or to say much of anything about how you’re doing–this leads to canned responses as we feel pressured to respond just to appear well-mannered to the very person who hasn’t the manners to take time to hear what we have to say. I don’t care how busy you think you are. Do it right or don’t do it at all. There seems to be an assumption that just opening your mouth is more polite than quietly listening–that it meets “social” criteria. Just because you talk doesn’t mean you’re being friendly, and if you’re not friendly, I have no reason to talk to you. It seems to me that it is genuine warmth that has died.

    • Angel

      08-24-2016

      The most accurate comment I ever red on internet about this topic. Great job Iamanon.

      Now Jason say that Iamanon only see the negative aspect of this situation. You Jason missunderstood what he is saying. What Iamanon did was to enumerate the reasons WHY this behave prefering text over calls.

  5. Anotherplayaguy

    07-20-2015 Reply

    And when the grid goes down? When there is no more internet?
    Talk about the zombie apocalypse! All those texters texting messages that go nowhere.

  6. Noyb

    08-04-2015 Reply

    so I suppose online communication, like facebook for example, isn’t dehumanizing or coercive…

    I mean no one behaves unauthentically there either…

  7. Hannah

    08-04-2015 Reply

    What is defined as a “text message”? Does this include messaging apps like Whatsapp or Telegram?

  8. Matt

    08-04-2015 Reply

    WOW, it’s first time I hear somebody communicating via emails. Yeah, some people use it for formal letters, but teens? I’ve no friends who are using emails to chat with other.

  9. Brian S

    08-10-2015 Reply

    Having been living apart from my wife on a couple of occasions, I can tell you that texting and email are both a very poor substitute to a phone call, and even better a Facetime or video call. You get very little nuance in text; even emoticons are poor-to-mediocre indicators.
    Voice call carries tonal nuance, as well as pauses, etc. Video adds the element of visual cues.
    I cannot conceive of text alone as being a truly sufficient communication medium.

  10. Sadie

    09-23-2015 Reply

    I’m a teenager, and i RARELY email my friends. In the year I’ve had a phone, I’ve probably called my friends 2 or 3 times, but I text them ALL the time.

  11. Craig

    12-25-2015 Reply

    Like many others I like to text in order to talk to others family friends afar and say what I need to say without being interrupted or any of that crap!
    Wish my own Dad would text me learn how at 74 years old! The electronic way of communication is the norm in today’s world! Hardly anyone verbally talks on phones unless they have too or want too!

  12. HelenaG0216

    04-08-2016 Reply

    This pic is sooooooooooooooo true and it sends a message to your friends. It makes you relize what the human world has come to. I am only 11 yrs old!

  13. RMAU

    06-04-2016 Reply

    By now, the thing where you pretend to care way less than you actually do isn’t just one option for how to proceed when dating someone new – it’s now considered the

  14. Rosalie

    06-06-2016 Reply

    Interesting read and also interesting to see peoples comments. Given that human communication is 93 % non-verbal this would mean people communicating via a one dimensional medium i.e. Text are missing out on more than they are getting!! Voice tone, body language, facial expressions etc. make up the 93 % !! Getting robbed of human contact people. There have been cases where children deprived of human touch do not develop as well has children that grow up with hugs etc. Imagine trying to teach a child how to ride a bike via a text message. We should not sell ourselves shot and undervalue the power of human connections interacting face to face, speaking and a hug good bye just does not do it for me via a text

  15. Cheryl

    08-12-2016 Reply

    I really don’t understand people. If you have a friend or are at work, and you get a call, you really need to call back and leave a message. Stop with the avoidance and texting. If you do call, leave a message! When I see businesses, teachers, etc. doing this, it’s really annoying.

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