The WSJ asked Nielsen to crunch some numbers from 60,000 phone bills and found that adults averaged 188 phone calls a month during the 2010 periods analyzed. That is down 25% from the number of calls made and received in the prior year. The actual minutes spend on a phone call declined 5% year over year. For those in the 18 to 24 year old bracket, the drop was 17%.
While there is no question that SMS messaging is cheaper than making phone calls, unlike voice conversations, texting cannot convey the emotion of the writer which can lead to misunderstandings. There is an upside. With Twitter's cap of 140 characters on each tweet, we are learning how to pass along the important part of our messages in a quicker, more timely fashion. Besides, for some, making an actual voice call seems like an intrusion. 21 year old Anne McAndrews is a marketing major at Boston's Emerson College and she says that she very rarely calls her friends. " If I were to call someone, it would have to be urgent," she says. "Otherwise, it's sort of rude and invasive."
To prove the power of advertising in the U.S., the nation had once been behind countries in Asia and Europe when it came to text messaging. When carriers started to notice a drop off in cell usage, they decided to focus on new ways to use texting. In 2003, American Idol introduced the service to countless adults as a way to vote for their favorite contestant. According to AT&T's senior vice president for data and voice product, Mark Collins, "American Idol put texting on the map,"
Still, adults have a long way to go to catch up to their thumb twirling, QWERTY obsessed children. According to Pew Research, 90% of those in the 18-29 age bracket sleep with their phone, allowing for late night texting. Half of those 50-64 years old bring their cell phone to bed. Another way to look at the disparity: nearly 30% of teens send and receive over 100 text messages a day against less than 10% of adults who deal with the same number of SMS messages daily.