I'm still waiting for some enterprising social scientist to describe what happened between 2003 — when texting was widespread in Japan and Europe, but almost non-existent in the U.S. — and 2008, by which time the situation described in today's strip had become established.
I asked this question a few years ago ("What's the difference?", 3/10/2008):
But just a few years ago, the situation was completely different. Although texting was popular in Europe and Japan, the rate of use in the U.S. was roughly two orders of magnitude lower — and was mainly confined to online trading addicts getting stock price alerts, sports fanatics getting score updates, etc. See "No text please, we're American", The Economist, 4/3/2003; "Why text messaging is not popular in the US", textually.org, 4/4/2003. I also noted this difference in a few posts three years ago ("Texting", 3/8/2004; "More on meiru", 3/9/2004; "Texting, typing, speaking", 7/1/2004).
The explanations offered for the geographic difference, back then, included Japanese commuting habits and social conventions discouraging phone conversations in public; greater availability of networked computers to Americans; different voice, SMS and internet pricing structures between Europe and the U.S.; the fact that SMS "was originally defined as part of the GSM series of standards", while U.S. cell phone service is more diverse in terms of its underlying technology.
But in general, these things haven't changed (as far as I know). So why are U.S. adolescents suddenly texting up a storm? Is this a cultural change driven by purely cultural factors?
And I still haven't seen a good answer. [Though there are more attempts in the comments on a later post, "How things have changed…", 11 21 2009.]
There must be highly-detailed historical data out there about who did how much texting where and when, as well as how pricing, standards, and hardware evolved. So how, where, and when did the change in U.S. texting habits happen? Was the change preceded by changes in standards, tariffs, or devices? Was it driven to any substantial extent by advertising? Or was it (as I suspect) an almost purely cultural wave, with the devices, tariffs, and marketing trailing along in its wake?
Perhaps there's already some literature on this — if so, I hope that well-informed readers can inform the rest of us.