How much do YOU text? And why?

There was a fascinating piece in The Wall Street Journal today, headlined, “Y U Luv Texts, H8 Calls.” Cute, huh? Anyway, the short answer to the implied question was, “We Want to Reach Others But Not to Be Interrupted.” But there was more to it than that.

There were some pretty incredible numbers in there:

For anyone who doubts that the texting revolution is upon us, consider this: The average 13- to 17-year-old sends and receives 3,339 texts a month—more than 100 per day, according to the Nielsen Co., the media research firm. Adults are catching up. People from ages 45 to 54 sent and received 323 texts a month in the second quarter of 2010, up 75% from a year ago, Nielsen says.

100 texts a day? Yeah, kids are pretty nuts about these things, but 100 texts a day? And that’s the average, rather than a pathological extreme? Come on.

Still, its undeniable that for the younger generations, texting is far more important than using the phone as a, well, phone.

That’s true even for an alter cocker like me — although “texts” aren’t my preferred medium. I’m far more likely to use my Blackberry to send an e-mail, or post a Tweet, or send a DM, or respond to a blog comment, than I am to use it to talk to anyone. Enough so that I’ve crippled my thumbs. (The pain is still considerable; I see a doctor next week.)

In total, I’ve sent out 2,702 Tweets since I started a little more than a year ago. That’s a lot, but hardly 100 a day.

Texting is undeniably useful, particularly for communicating under certain circumstances with people who have cell phones that are not “smart.” Last night, for instance, I went to a reception at Rosewood’s at the fairgrounds. When I was leaving that, I planned to connect with my daughter, who had brought her kids to the fair. I tried calling her, and couldn’t hear her over the fair noise. So I texted, “Where are you? I couldn’t hear…” She replied, “We’re @ the picnic tables under a tent right outside entrance to grandstand,” and I answered, “OK, stay there…”

Undeniably useful. But as a substitute for other forms of communication, no, I don’t think so. And how on Earth is it appealing for people who don’t have full QWERTY keyboards on their devices? Talk about tedious…

Kids don’t seem to mind, though. Which provokes a thought: Back in the ’60s, many of us thought we were SO different from our parents. And outwardly, perhaps we were. But this latest development suggests that kids today are actually, cognitively different from us. They’re wired entirely different, and technology has done the wiring.

And what are the social, cultural, political and personal consequences of that?

13 thoughts on “How much do YOU text? And why?

  1. Ralph Hightower

    I don’t send that many texts. I’ve texted USC game updates to my wife when she was not watching the game. Texting on a 10 key keypad is bad; the T9 predictive text for words works some of the time, other times, I have to hit the same key 2 or 3 times to pick a letter.
    I’m looking to upgrade to a phone with a QWERTY keyboard.

    I’ll send texts when a call isn’t appropriate.

  2. jfx

    “And how on Earth is it appealing for people who don’t have full QWERTY keyboards on their devices? Talk about tedious…”

    Not so tedious:

    It’s a real thumbsaver. Plus you can achieve close to double-thumbs-of-fury typing speed without having to two-hand crimp-claw the device. Ingenious little program. I’m typing this comment with it right now.

    And then there’s speech-to-text, which saves not just the thumb, but all fingers.

  3. Steve Gordy

    I’ve noticed that my students this semester seem to be handicapped when it comes to communicating in complete paragraphs.

  4. Kathryn Fenner

    Not at all. We blocked it–like cable pricing, I am offended by the extreme disconnect between what it costs to deliver a text–considerably less than the cost of the voice calls included in my basic mobile phone package, and I refuse to pay it. I am reasonably available by voice phone or email, and if that is not sufficient, as my husband’s colleague puts it, “you need to re-examine your priorities.”

  5. Nick Nielsen

    I receive many more texts than I send, but work pages me by text message. I might send one, maybe two texts a week.

    The last work-related text I sent was over a week ago (October 6). I haven’t sent a personal text since September.

  6. Libb

    No texting or twittering here. I barely do a cell phone (it goes w/ me in the car in case of emergency). Boy, am I archaic by modern communication standards! Fine by me.

    As for the consequences, I hear from parents of teenagers that they even speak in acronyms these days. For instance, instead of “I don’t know” it’s “IDK”. That’s kinda sad on many levels.

  7. scout

    We don’t have texting on our plan. Closest thing I do to that is Google talk since we’ve got the internet on the droid anyway – we’re paying for it anyway and don’t have to pay extra for texts. I really just use google talk occasionally with my husband – for things like – pick up some milk on the way home, please. The abbreviated style of texting in and of itself does not bother me – it is like a dialect or a register. What bothers me is when people try to use it in other settings where it is not appropriate – like wearing shorts to church. There is nothing wrong with shorts, but you don’t wear them to church. You’ve got to be able to code-switch.

  8. Norm Ivey

    I text only with my daughters (every day or two) and bride (occasionally). The kids don’t want to talk to Dad too much on the phone when they are with their friends (they’re both in college), but they don’t mind texting with me while they are doing something else. My wife and I text when we know it would be difficult to talk on a phone (in a crowd like you at the fair), or we want to be sure the message is private. I’ve grown to like it. Frankly, I didn’t care much for the idea of carrying a phone until I got a smartphone–now it’s useful.

  9. Norm Ivey

    As for the consequences, I hear from parents of teenagers that they even speak in acronyms these days. For instance, instead of “I don’t know” it’s “IDK”. That’s kinda sad on many levels.

    Language is fluid–it is constantly changing. IDK may replace I don’t know, but IDK if that’s a bad thing. In Libb’s post (not being critical–just giving an example) kinda is used instead of kind of, but we fully understand it. We say taxi or cab or even taxicab when we refer to a taximeter cabriolet.

    If language didn’t change, we would all be speaking like Chaucer or German or Saxon, right?

  10. Kathryn Fenner

    “You’ve got to be able to code-switch.” -scout

    Great observation–and so many of us do it. I believe many people from minority backgrounds learn to code-switch at an early age.

  11. Hunter

    Good exchange.

    I don’t text MSG at all, but I do write emails to my wife with some frequency. Easier than waiting for the next time we are within chatting distance. No question life is easier.

    We can split up in a shopping situation and keep each other informed on timing and locale without setting rendezvous points and deadlines. Remember that?

    Also, the vexation of waiting is no longer there. I now happily sit and catch up on emails, read the news, or play Solitaire. Sometimes I’m even a teensy peeved if she shows up before I’m finished.

    Lately I have been listing to streamed music over a service that has 480 channels you can organize in your “favorites” list. For classical alone there are about 30 different channels. What a luxury! AccuRadio app, if you are interested. Better than iTunes… And free.

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