Texting efficiency

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Last Sunday's Foxtrot tries to explain the popularity of texting among teens:

It's a cute theory, but it's almost certainly false.

In the 2008 SingTel SMS Shootout, Jeramy Sng Gim won with a time of 41:40 for texting a (known and practiced) 160-character message. (Second place went to Jeffrey Teo Yi Hao, whose time of 45:33 was about 10% slower.)

Jeramy's world-record texting speech works out to 230 characters/minute for a prepared text. At five characters per word, which is the standard for measuring typing speed, that would be 46 wpm; at 3 characters per word (surely too low, even with extensive abbreviating), it would be 77 wpm.

But average conversational speech rates in English are around 160 wpm (reference), based on actual word counts — and especially fast talkers can easily reach sustained speeds of 250 wpm.

My impression is that even the fastest texters only average about 15-25 wpm in conversational usage, defining "word" in the same way that we do for spoken transcripts. (I'd love to see some empirical measurements of this — if you know of any, please tell us in the comments.)

So talking on the phone — much less face-to-face — is actually about ten times faster, in terms of words per unit time, than texting is. But I certainly know some (pre-)teens who have a strong preference for texting over talking, at least when it comes to long-distance conversations. Since efficiency is not the explanation, this is still a phenomenon in search of a theory.

(For some historical discussion, see "Texting", 3/8/2004; "Texting, typing, speaking", 7/1/2004; "What's the difference?" 3/102008.)


  1. bulbul said,

    July 8, 2008 @ 7:39 am

    Since efficiency is not the explanation, this is still a phenomenon in search of a theory.
    So I called* my sister (16) and asked her about this. Her explanation for the preference for texting over calling is that all of her friends used to use those prepaid services where a text message is cheaper than a call. A text to any network costs € 0.12 while a minute's call ranges from € 0.12 (home network in the evenings and on weekends) to € 0.46 (other networks at peak times). She pointed out, though, that since the prices on some networks (not hers) dropped to € 0.06 a minute, some of her friends stopped have begun to call each other frequently. A friend of hers even got a phone with a contract (which includes perks like 300 free minutes for calls between 9pm and 7am) and within a week, she stopped texting altogether.

    * I'm an adult, after all.

  2. Mark Liberman said,

    July 8, 2008 @ 7:57 am

    Bulbul suggests that texting is popular because cell phone plans make texting cheaper than talking. The same explanation used to be offered for why texting was more popular in Japan and Europe than in the U.S. But the recent growth of interest in texting among U.S. teens can't be explained in this way. A 12-year-old of my acquaintance had a cell phone plan that gave him quite a few free calling minutes per month, and (as I recall) 200 text messages, with a fairly stiff charge after that. He used up his allotted text messages, but not his talk time, and lobbied his parents to pay the extra money for unlimited texting.

    In another case, a 13-year-old girl went so far over her cell phone plan's allotted SMS quota that the one-month charge was a significant hardship for her mother to pay.

    So there's something going on, at least in the U.S., that's not explained by cost differentials.

  3. Adrian Bailey said,

    July 8, 2008 @ 8:27 am

    "It's a cute theory, but it's almost certainly false." Well, duh.

    Some reasons for popularity of texting:
    1. The cult of the new.
    2. It's similar to IM-ing, with its thrill of dispatching and anticipation.
    3. No-one can hear what you're saying.
    4. You can do it across the classroom, and between classrooms.
    5. Since you can do it in places where you can't phone, its use bleeds into situations where you could phone.
    6. Long-distance phoning has historically been frowned upon because of cost.
    7. The cost of texting is "hidden".

  4. Phil said,

    July 8, 2008 @ 8:39 am

    How about just the joy of text? As others have noted with regards to the internet, there's (maybe) a huge literacy burst going on, with more young people spending time reading and writing than ever before, because they can read and write blogs, Facebook, twitter, etc. They're just enjoying text as another form of communication.
    Despite what the cartoon implies, there's no sign that teenagers are giving up talking. I'm willing to bet that Mark's teen acquaintances haven't stopped phone calls altogether. They're just adding a weapon to their communicative armoury, and enjoying the opportunities it gives them to craft zingy one-liners and send them to an appreciative audience.

  5. Scott W said,

    July 8, 2008 @ 9:21 am

    I just want to make sure I understand the numbers – did you mean 41.40 (forty-one and forty hundredths) seconds rather than 41:40 (forty-one minutes and forty seconds)?

    [(myl) Yes, that's how I interpreted the contest web site's use of the notation "41:40".]

  6. jagorev said,

    July 8, 2008 @ 9:42 am

    The reason why I often prefer texting to talking on the cell phone is that texting is asynchronous. You can read the message and respond at your leisure, instead of interrupting whatever you're doing right now in order to talk to someone who's calling you.

  7. Scott W said,

    July 8, 2008 @ 10:03 am

    Ah! OK, thanks. And I apologize for not following the link in the first place.

  8. Eli Morris-Heft said,

    July 8, 2008 @ 10:03 am

    @jagorev has a point. Though I'm just a tad bit too old to be a teenager, I think I can relate to the phenomenon a little bit.

    Not only does the asynchronous quality of texting allow leisure, but it also facilitates multitasking, a skill that is second nature to many people today, having been honed by IM clients and surfing the web while working.

    However, for me, perhaps the most attractive feature of texting is the ability to skip the obligatory turns at the beginning and ends of conversations. (I once knew what these were called, but I'm a morphosyntactician, not a discourse analyst…) Text conversations rarely begin with the traditional "Hello, how are you?" formula and never need to end in any of the culturally-prescribed ways like "Talk to you later." Even IM conversations have these hallmarks.

  9. kay said,

    July 8, 2008 @ 10:04 am

    Actually, texting CAN be more efficient. When you text, you get right to the heart of your conversation – the information you're seeking, the data you need to convey – without needing to introduce yourself to the conversation, exchange pleasantries, and perhaps get sidetracked into extraneous talk. A talk-conversation about where to meet for the movies tonight may well last three or four minutes. The same conversation by text, perhaps a few seconds. Or at least that's what my teens tell me.

  10. Ryan Rosso said,

    July 8, 2008 @ 10:06 am

    @jagorev: I would agree. I enjoy the freedom texting allows you to communicate at your own leisure. I also tend to begin communication with a text with the understanding that the other party might also enjoy this freedom.

    For the most part, I text when the topic isn't super imperative. If it is a pressing issue I will call, and I assume that if it were pressing for the other person, they could always call to be clear on something as well.

  11. Ryan Rosso said,

    July 8, 2008 @ 10:08 am

    @Eli: Again, another reason I find texting efficient: multi-tasking. I think your second point is a good one, however I find my own text sessions incorporating a lot of these greetings and goodbyes.

  12. Jadagul said,

    July 8, 2008 @ 10:20 am

    I'm college, not high school, but I agree with jagorev and Eli Morris-Heft. Texting is less intrusive–You know you're not interrupting anything, because if you are the other person will just wait for a while to answer. You can text with multiple people at once (and push the same message to several people at a time). My father likes to text when he has to communicate with my younger sisters (say, when they're at the mall with friends) because that way they can answer him quickly without interrupting what they're doing or going through the 'embarrassment' of talking to their parents in public.

    That said, all these advantages are also disadvantages in some cases. A phone call is better for when you need an answer immediately, when you need some back and forth (where should we go to dinner? How about that new Thai place? No, too crowded. Etc..), or when you want to have a long, involved conversation. So when I want one of those things I call.

  13. Gerg said,

    July 8, 2008 @ 11:46 am

    Ah, but there's a hidden assumption in the calculations you've made: that the texts consist of the same words as speech. In fact text messages tend to be shorter and use fewer words. Either because the sender has a chance to think — though apparently not in this case — or because the sender is accustomed to trying to squeeze more into a single message to avoid being charged for two messages.

  14. Stephen Jones said,

    July 8, 2008 @ 12:13 pm

    I used to send about twenty text messages a day, but the number has declined considerably. As nearly all were to the same person, this is not down to any aversion to texting.

    Whilst finances were the initial reason (International SMS are a lot cheaper than international calls, particularly when you use an SMS e-mail Gateway) and the decline in international calls and a reasonable Skype connection have meant I call a lot more, the advantage of texting is that it is non-intrusive, and also allows multi-tasking; you can have a conversation with meat-space friends at the same time.

    And texting can mean you're activities are kept private, or the opposite, that you can show the texts around to your friends, whilst with a phone call the default is you only ever get half the conversation, which is why so many are still annoyed by others' mobile conversations.

    And a final thing: one one occasion my mobile rang while I was talking to some students (luckily class was over so I was spared the embarrassment). I briefly told the caller that I was busy now and hung up. All my students looked at me with horror. I had just committed what appears to be a mortal faux pas to Saudi youth. When somebody phones you the only polite thing to do is to give up anything else you're doing and anybody you're speaking to and continue the conversation. At least a text message doesn't convey this urgency.

  15. Sili said,

    July 8, 2008 @ 12:24 pm

    The asynchronicity is certainly a feature of my own texting use.

    Obliquely related: My uncle is a keen radio amateur and helps out a navy museum in the holidays. He's competed against visiting teenagers using Morse while they text, and they usually end up equally efficient. It's worth recalling that both Morse and HAM radio employ plenty of shorthand to compress information too – just like txting.

  16. Oskar said,

    July 8, 2008 @ 1:13 pm

    I would like to pick up on what several people have already mentioned, that texting has much higher entropy than speech, therefore it can go much faster. These two conversations are roughly equivalent, the first one done in speech, the other over text:

    "Hi Anne, it's Linda"
    "Hi Linda, how are you! I was just thinking about you!"
    "Oh, really? Cool. I'm great. You?"
    "Oh, I'm just fine."
    "Listen, I was thinking it would be fun to go see a movie tonight. Wanna come?"
    "Sure, what'd you have in mind?"
    "I was thinking that Forgetting Sarah Marshall Movie"
    "Oh, I'd love to see that. When is it on?"
    "Don't know"
    "Hang on, I'll check…. Ok, how about around 8 pm at the multiplex"
    "Sounds fun! See you there!"
    "See ya!"

    The same conversation in text-messages:

    "movie 2night?"
    "k. which?"
    "sarah marshall. u got listings?"
    "sure. 8 at multiplex"
    "k. c ya!"

    They aren't exactly equivalent, the first one conveys a little more information ("I was just thinking about you", "I'm fine", etc), but that's essentially just pleasantries. They basically convey the same message ("Wanna see a movie" "Sure, when and where?" "Eight at the multiplex"). By my count, the conversation is 88 words and the texting is 16. If we're going by Mark's count and say that talking is ten times faster than texting, that would mean that in this particular example, the conversation is still about twice as fast (although one should note that I'm not an experienced texter, a tween can probably do it much better than me, and that many of the so-called words in the text messages only one or two characters long, such as "k", "c" and "ya").

    Still, the point is, you can't just compare word speeds for texting and speech, that's not the whole story. I personally prefer the lower-entropy speech, but that's just me.

  17. pc said,

    July 8, 2008 @ 2:57 pm

    There's a good amount of research on this. Especially check out some of Rebecca Grinter's work, particularly a 2004 study called "y do tngrs luv 2 txt msg?" that finds the main reasons for liking text are its ease, speed, and inexpensiveness. There is also this study by a couple of British social psychologists, which posits that texting creates particular kinds of social relationships/networks that are different from those forged through talking on the phone (I'd buy this, since a big reason I often text is because it can be one-to-many instead of one-to-one; talking on the phone and texting on the phone really aren't functionally equivalent). There is also the idea that media like text feel like they exert a lot less social pressure – a lot of people simply don't like talking on the phone because of all the technical and social awkwardness that it can provide (as several other commenters have pointed out). The excellent internet historian Gerard Goggin's book Cell Phone Culture (2006) probably explores these issues, as do some of the chapters in The Inside Text (2005).

  18. Andy Hollandbeck said,

    July 8, 2008 @ 3:22 pm

    Texting (or e-mailing) also gives one time to gain perspective before spouting off. I usually prefer e-mail over phones (and sometimes face-to-face dialogue) because, well, let's just say I'm quite familiar with the flavor of my toes. In the time it takes to write a message — txt or e-mail — you can get a better picture of what you're saying and whether you should say it. Half the (few) text messages I've composed were never sent because, by the time I got to the end, I realized that what I was saying simply wasn't worth the air time. Had I been speaking in person, I wouldn't have the built-in filter.

    This is, of course, just the opposite of blog comments. I can type just fine while I'm gnawing on my instep.

  19. individualfrog said,

    July 8, 2008 @ 3:31 pm

    I just hate talking on the phone. I know a lot of people feel the same way. It's also so much more pleasant to sit on a train with people texting than with people talking on the phone. I wish texting was as popular in the US as it is in Japan–I spoke on the phone maybe ten times in the three years I lived there.

  20. pc said,

    July 8, 2008 @ 3:39 pm

    I already tried to post this and it got eaten either by the ether or the mods, so here goes again. There's a good bit of research on this – Rebecca Grinter's work has found that ease, cheapness, and speed are key motivators for teens' use of text messaging. Social psychologists Donna Reid and Frasier Reid suggest that there is a different kind of relationship/network afforded by use of text as opposed to phone calling – this makes sense to me since text is often one-to-many instead of one-to-one. There is also the point often mentioned whenever people talk about CMC about how it feels like there's less social pressure through text than through voice; some people just don't enjoy the technical or social mechanics of phone talk (myself included – as other commenters have noted, talking on the phone and texting on the phone are not functionally equivalent). I'd also bet that this issue is discussed by the excellent internet historian Gerard Goggins' (2006) book Cell Phone Culture, some of the work of sociologist Rich Ling, contributions to the 2005 volume The Inside Text, and some of the Pew Internet and American Life Project surveys.

  21. John Laviolette said,

    July 8, 2008 @ 3:42 pm

    Not that science is a democracy… but I agree with jagorev (texting is popular because it's asynchronous,) but think Adrian Bailey's #3 (no one can hear what you're saying.)

    I'm way too old to be considered even close to the demographic, and I've never used text messaging, but I have used IM, IRC, and other forms of chat. And yes, the benefit of all is that you can do something else while waiting for the reply, or scroll back if you think you've missed something. I'm not sure if scrollback applies to text messaging, but I *think* so.

    But secrecy or at least discretion plays a role, too. Remember the days of passing notes in class? And using slang that (hopefully) only your peers would understand? Text messaging is just a new implementation of that, but with the added benefit of high-frequency ringtones.

  22. Allison said,

    July 8, 2008 @ 3:51 pm

    Maybe this is simplistic, but when I text to a person I could speak to it's for privacy or stealth.

    I am curious, however about efficiency comparing speaking via telephony to instant messaging (with a full qwerty keyboard on a computer). As a teenager (when IMing was new) I'd often prefer to us IM to a phony – I could speak to three or more people and my typing speed when from an average of about 30 wpm to around 70 or 90. Still not speaking speed and there is often big gaps between call and response, but when you triple it with three or more conversation partners, I would imagine it would at least give the efficiency of speaking a run for it's money.

  23. Ryan Rosso said,

    July 8, 2008 @ 3:57 pm

    @Oskar: I think Mark's point was that texting is not faster based on the overall time it takes to convey the same ideas, not based on the number of words used. The spoken version of your example could be estimated to take maybe around a minute, while in the text version, every message–taking into account the time it takes to press all the keys and then transmit the message over airwaves–may be judged to take about 30 seconds if everything was optimally fast. This lag between messages is what makes it longer.

    Even if we were to calculate the time it takes to send the message as free-time, the receiving and texting itself takes the attention of your hand. When speaking on the phone, only a few seconds to answer and hang up actually require the use of your hands, so there is actually plenty of time to multitask and be more efficient with time.

  24. Oskar said,

    July 8, 2008 @ 4:19 pm

    @Ryan Rosso: It's a very good point. I was just commenting on the fact that if you want to measure the efficiency of communication based on how many words per minute you type, you can't really just compare it with the same text, because they are two fundamentally different ways to communicate using language.

    However, it is true that a simple conversation is almost always faster than texting each other messages. I wouldn't be so sure that this is always true, but it certainly is in most cases.

  25. Licia said,

    July 8, 2008 @ 5:02 pm

    doesn't anybody else simply enjoy packing as much information as possible within the 160-character limit, *without* using abbreviations?

  26. Erik Hetzner said,

    July 8, 2008 @ 7:52 pm

    The usefulness of text messaging as compared with the phone could be explained in terms of the usefulness of UDP as compared with TCP. From Wikipedia

    Avoiding the overhead of checking whether every packet actually arrived makes UDP faster and more efficient, for applications that do not need guaranteed delivery. Time-sensitive applications often use UDP because dropped packets are preferable to delayed packets. UDP's stateless nature is also useful for servers that answer small queries from huge numbers of clients. Unlike TCP, UDP is compatible with packet broadcast (sending to all on local network) and multicasting (send to all subscribers).

    I'm still waiting for some group of teenagers to discover the Paxos algorithm to use text messages to decide, in the presence of process failure (e.g. one of them being grounded) what to do on a given night.

  27. Craig Russell said,

    July 8, 2008 @ 10:41 pm

    I am reminded of a story that stuck in my memory as a child (back in the days before there was such a thing as text messaging), about Thomas Edison when *he* was a child. He and a friend were telegraph enthusiasts, and he would spend all his free time down in the basement "texting" telegraph messages to the friend.

    Edison's father didn't like the idea of him spending all his time on the telegraph, so Edison devised a plan to get more time: he "accidentally" left the newspaper his father had wanted him to bring home at his friend's house, and his dad was so eager to read the paper that he let Edison have his friend transmit the articles with the telegraph.

    I have always thought that in a funny way text messages are sort of reminiscent of the telegraph: both have their own clipped, abbreviated writing style streamlined for the sake of efficiency, time, and cost.

  28. Randy Alexander said,

    July 9, 2008 @ 12:11 am

    Another reason for texting that hasn't been mentioned:

    Sometimes I prefer texting to talking based on who I'm communicating with. There are some people I need to communicate with, but would avoid a spoken conversation with at all costs. : )

  29. Christopher Stone said,

    July 9, 2008 @ 2:43 am

    Although efficiency, cost, and discretion are certainly all good logical reasons to use text, I feel like relying on the logic of a product isn't the best measure when talking about teenagers (or people in general).

    I have to wonder what role Politeness Theory has to play in the prevalence of texting – if all of your friends are using one mode of communication, then it makes sense that you would use it too to make clear your inclusion in that particular social network.

    I don't have any kind of empirical data to back up my intuition, but I feel like a lot of these things work kind of like a critical mass – if enough people you know get it, that in and of itself justifies you getting it too, regardless of its cost effectiveness (both in terms of communicative efficiency and money).

  30. Val said,

    July 9, 2008 @ 4:26 am

    @Licia: I never use abbreviations either, but recently discovered that this has unintended social consequences when I overheard one friend remark to another: "When I text Val I always try to spell right so she won't look down on me."

    Being a person who uses texting as the main medium to communicate with my friends when there not nearby, I agree with the people who stated that the main reasons are asyncronicity and cheapness. But for me there is another reason – I have a strange and irrational fear of my own disembodied voice which fortunately does not extend to my own disembodied written words.

  31. Laurent C said,

    July 9, 2008 @ 4:38 am

    I am a 28 European (so I don't qualify as a teenager) but I use many texts with friends. They are indeed very useful due to asynchronity (so you don't bother people), to broadcasting (very useful when inviting several friends to a party), and to avoid chatting (which may be really time-wasting at inappropriate times).

    I also enjoy it when hearing will be difficult (in crowded places, or when talking to a non-native speaker of your language) or when network coverage is low (when hiking in mountain for instance).

    Texting can't replace oral communication, but they may be useful for adults too.

  32. Orange said,

    July 9, 2008 @ 9:28 am

    I've given up calling my husband during his commute home and text him instead. In order for him to hear me over the bus noise, I'd have to shout and repeat myself, whereas the text message comes through clearly and he can reply without annoying the people around him.

    I don't like leaving or retrieving voicemail messages–texts are great, especially when the info being conveyed is something I want to look at, like a phone number or address.

  33. Josh Millard said,

    July 9, 2008 @ 11:04 am

    doesn't anybody else simply enjoy packing as much information as possible within the 160-character limit, *without* using abbreviations?

    I did some freelance work a little while back writing up SMS content, actually — blocks of messages on this topic or that which would go out to subscribers on something like a one-a-day basis — and it made for an interesting challenge. Trying to pack not just information but a clear (and in some cases affected) voice into that space, and trying to fill it near to the brim each time to boot, is oddly constraining.

  34. M. Dalen said,

    July 9, 2008 @ 11:53 am

    While I don't really like texting, mostly because of its expense, I *do* much prefer IMing to the phone – and that's partly because of some of the aforementioned reasons, but also because I have a hard time understanding some people on the phone. I don't know what it is – the quality, the amount of white noise, or something else – but I often find that I'm only picking up every third word or so in a phone conversation, and it's annoying to keep asking people to repeat theselves. I don't have that problem with IM.

  35. Timm said,

    July 9, 2008 @ 2:41 pm

    I disagree with asynchronicity as being an incentive to text. Sure, everyone talks about it, but in my experience, when someone gets a text message, they typically answer it immediately (interrupting whatever they happened to be doing at the time), and if someone sends a text that is not responded to within a few minutes, they send another asking what the hold up is. It's not as intrusive as answering the phone, but where a phone call would be one long interruption, a series of text messages answered right away is a series of minor interruptions over several minutes. I often get irritated at my texting friends constantly pulling out their phones and responding to texts as we're talking. (I don't text, partly because I barely use my cell phone as is and don't want to add texting to my plan, but mostly because I don't like to try and type things on the keypad)

  36. Frank Hale said,

    July 9, 2008 @ 4:40 pm

    I sent a text message–once–on my cell phone, and said, "Oh, that is not very interesting." I'd rather talk to someone, preferably in person. The human voice is so much richer than a little text screen on a phone.

    I have received a half-dozen text messages, but they were all computer generated acknowledgments of actions taken (such as orders processed) or flight status from airlines. Those are handy messages.

    But I can't imagine texting friends and family.

    (For those who wish to do the social analysis, I was born in the 1950's.)

  37. Jeffrey Hill said,

    July 10, 2008 @ 6:05 am

    Hi Mark,

    I don't actually own a mobile phone so I'm not into texting but I'm new to your blog and would love to know how you get that really neat effect where the images enlarge automatically when you click on them.

    By the way, I'm an English teacher at the Normandy Business School in France and look forward to becoming a regular reader of the Lanugage Log.

  38. Rethoryke said,

    July 10, 2008 @ 11:56 am

    Texting strikes me as a behavior that shows status [I have a phone, I have paid for message services, I am doing something new] _and_ hides the message from unintended recipients.

    I'm not in the age range where I need to impress others or want shield my communications from others — and most of the others I do communicate with are long-term friends or family — so I can just talk to them, or send them an email.

    My younger brother recently told me that I could get in touch with him more easily if I texted him, rather than left him a phone message; this makes ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE to me.

  39. Andy J said,

    July 10, 2008 @ 8:38 pm

    @Erik Hetzner. Not sure why you think the TCP v UDP comparison is apposite. Frankly, comparing a motorcycle (text) to a bus (speech) to move an individual from A to B would be just as helpful. In terms of telecommunications efficiency, the text message beats speech (over a mobile/cell phone) any day. A text message is essentially a small amount of header plus pure data (the actual message characters) up to 1120 bits in length. The bandwidth usage is minute. On the other hand, speech is made up of ridiculously large percentages of "dead air" time comprised of the pauses between syllables and between words plus many other redundant features, all of which are faithfully transmitted to the recipient, which even with the most efficient multiplexing techniques, still uses a huge amount of bandwidth by comparison with SMS (text).

  40. Jadagul said,

    July 11, 2008 @ 3:21 am

    Rethoryke: because voicemail is evil. I really would love to find a way to turn my voicemail off–it's a horrible way to get in touch with people. You have to listen to that annoying voice, and then listen to someone ramble on. I avoid listening to my voicemail as far as possible–I in the past have had voicemails that go unchecked for literally weeks.

    Whereas checking a text message is almost instantaneous, and can happen literally without a break in the conversation I'm having. A two minute investment versus a five-second one.

  41. Erik Hetzner said,

    July 11, 2008 @ 2:14 pm

    @Andy J

    UDP/texting: limited length, no guarantee of delivery or ordering, stateless, one-way, one-to-one or one-to-many

    TCP/talking: unlimited length, guaranteed delivery (well, you get confirmation when somebody answers the phone) & ordering, two way, stateful (one person talks, then the other), one-to-one only (generally; of course you can have conference calls, but it is difficult)

  42. Alex Steed [of Make Something Happen] said,

    July 11, 2008 @ 4:37 pm

    What a conversation. A few thoughts –

    I agree with the following noted sentiments that were noted somewhere (and sometimes several places) above –

    Texting is appealing because: It is fun, it is new, it gets to the heart of the conversation, etc.

    I also agree with whoever stated there being an interest in getting straight to the point in a textual (ha) way. I'd prefer a beautifully crafted text that resonates rather than a quick, "efficient" cell conversation.

    And texting is efficient, albeit perceivably unhealthy. What of these people who break up via text? That's quicker than all of that crying, right? Isn't texting a good way to get around difficult-to-navigate, real-time emotions?

  43. Catanea said,

    July 13, 2008 @ 8:07 am

    I'm in the wrong age-group to say this (50s), but I love texting. I often have to send messages in French or Castilian or Catalan as well as English and I love the T9 Dictionary – I can be pretty sure I've got my accents right, and that my spelling is understandable (well, I rely on the Spanish dictionary only as a vague help to Catalan word completion – no Catalan dictionary on my 'phone yet). I also often have to communicate with people IN France or England, and an international text (especially if one is on some motorway somewhere – not as the driver, of course) is much cheaper than ringing. READING the message leaves fewer opportunities for misunderstanding when one is a non-native speaker – on EITHER end of the conversation. AND I'm fast. Our daughters mock my husband for his slowness, but he also uses VERY few words. And until she finally got a computer/internet connexion/email my mother-in-law & I texted daily as she lives alone in the UK while we're in Catalonia (and she's 79). A brilliant invention. We almost never use our 'phones to speak.

  44. Jo said,

    July 14, 2008 @ 11:22 pm

    For me (early 30s), there's also an immediacy to text that you don't always have with phone calls. There have been times when I've see or heard something that reminded me of a friend or family member, or that I thought someone would appreciate or find funny. It's not worth a phone call, but a quick text to say "I saw [something] and it reminded me of that time we [something]" is easy and inexpensive. It may seem impersonal to some, but to me it's more personal than a postcard ever was.

  45. Kragen Sitaker said,

    July 19, 2008 @ 2:44 am

    Most of the reasons that I text instead of phoning have already been expressed by someone above (it's less intrusive, works in areas of intermittent radio coverage, much much much more pleasant to receive than listening to voicemail, efficient, permits many-to-many, doesn't require quiet surroundings to be received) but the one thing I haven't seen mentioned is the "Do you have a pencil?" conversation. You know:

    a: What's your address?
    b: 1978 Market Street, 8th floor, apartment C.
    a: Hold on, let me get a pencil.
    b: (waits)
    a: Okay, what was that again?
    b: 1978 Market Street, 8th —
    a: That's nineteen sixty —
    b: No, nineteen SEVENTY —
    a: Nineteen seventy Market Street —
    b: No, nineteen seventy EIGHT Market Street —
    a: Nineteen seventy Market Street, apartment H?
    b: No, NINETEEN SEVENTY EIGHT. Like the year you were born.
    a: Oh, okay, 1978 Market Street. That's it?
    b: 8th floor, apartment H.
    a: Hold on, it's gotten dark here. I can't see the paper any more.
    b: (waits)
    a: Okay, that's nineteen eighteen Market Street, 8th floor?
    b: No, 1978, and it's apartment H.
    a: Oh, sorry. 1978 Market Street, 8th floor, apartment H. Got it!
    b: Great! See you soon. Bye.
    a: Bye.

    (five minutes later)

    b: Hello.
    a: Hi, I lost that paper I wrote your address on — was it 1987 Market Street?
    b: Why don't I just text you?

    In general, if someone is going to have to write something down, it's much easier if it's the sender, rather than the receiver. Phone numbers of third parties, addresses to meet, directions to a place, shopping lists, meeting times, and so on, all are real pains to transmit by voice to someone who's transcribing them. Voicemail just multiplies the unnecessary effort by three or so, or maybe a million if the message is incomprehensible and you can't reach the sender to get a retransmission.

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