Recent research shows that the UK is seeing the rise of the SMS and the decline of the voice call. According to Ofcom, a communications regulator in the UK, 2011 saw more than 150 million text messages sent in the country, with an average of 50 texts per person currently being sent each week. Compare this to 2008, a year in which the average mobile phone owner sent a mere 25 texts per week. What we’re seeing now is an unprecedented use of mobile devices to not just browse the Internet, but, for the first time, to send text messages in quantities far outstripping the number of calls made on both landline and mobile telephones.
Ofcom found that, in 2011, 58% of UK residents communicated through texts every day, compared to 47% of people who made mobile telephone calls once a day at the very least. Calls made from landline numbers dropped by 10% between 2010 and 2011, with mobile phone calls declining by a modest but telling 1% during the same period.
In-person conversations and telephone calls are starting to fall by the wayside as SMS numbers spike in the UK, with young adults and teens at the forefront of the trend. Ofcom said that 96% of 16- to 24-year-olds use text messaging daily, with 90% sending texts by cell phone and 73% texting through social networks.
Ofcom’s Director of Research, James Thickett, was quoted as saying, “Our research reveals that in just a few short years, new technology has fundamentally changed the way that we communicate … newer forms of communications are emerging which don’t require us to talk to each other especially among younger age groups. This trend is set to continue as technology advances and we move further into the digital age.”
It seems that communicating via text messages is turning out to be more popular than talking. While phone calls are not yet on their way out, the rise in SMS usage suggests the popularity of a new mode of conversation, with rapid-fire written messages not just supplementing, but potentially supplanting voice calls. Some would say that the trend means that, with remote digital communication on the up-and-up, close, meaningful interactions may be on the decline. Others might suggest that the rise in text messaging just means a faster, more convenient way to reach others; it can mean instant connection and the chance to self-edit, something that is not possible over voice calls. At the same time, though, nuances of oral expression like tone of voice, pitch and timbre are lost. For the tech-savvy individual, the pros of a given medium of communication must be weighed against the cons, and the best route may be to use all available channels in combination when conversing with others.
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