Well folks, it’s official, we are now talking less on the phone than we used to, according to an OFCOM consumer report published today (http://consumers.ofcom.org.uk/2012/07/uk-is-now-texting-more-than-talking/). There has been a drop in the amount of time that we spend talking on the telephone to each other while at the same time there has been an increase in the amount of time we spend sending text based messages, be it either as SMS messages or via social network sites such as Twitter or Facebook.
The headline grabber is the fact that for the first time ever the number of calls we are making has fallen. This is being led by teenagers who are increasingly finding other ways to communicate such as BlackBerry’s BBM service. This drive to use other technologies is, not surprisingly, being led by the young. 90% of 16-24 year olds use text messaging to communicate with their family and friends and nearly three quarters (73%) use social networking sites. Only 67% of this age group use a mobile phone to make a call once a day.
I would think that price plays a big part in this migration of communication mediums. Phone calls cost money, even when on a contract with a certain number of minutes included in your phone package then making calls eats into this allowance. Those in the 16-24yo age bracket are likely to have lower incomes and therefore take out more affordable phone packages that have fewer minutes included. This makes those minutes, relatively speaking, more precious. If you only have 100 minutes of call time every month you might be more choosey who you use them on than somebody who has 2000 minutes in their contract.
I think back to my own teenage years, long before the advent of mobile phones, and the frequent rows when the phone bill arrived about how much I had been using the phone, my how times change!
So it would appear that the youth are looking for other, more economic, ways to keep in touch. Many phone packages allow high numbers or even unlimited texts per month making this the medium of choice for many people. This is a turn around for a service that was, if folklore is correct, only added to mobile phones to help ustilise some spare capacity on the chip. In 1995 users sent on average 0.4 messages per month. This figure is now 200 per month in the UK.
Twitter is also another way to keep in touch. Perhaps the advantage with Twitter is that you can easily have a conversation with more than one person at the same time. The BBM service is free to use and so this has proved very popular with younger people. I do not need to document the woes that RIM (manufacturers of the BlackBerry brand) are currently undergoing but one thing I would say is that nowadays I am more likely to see a BlackBerry handset in the hands of a hoodie than a suit.
Social media allows us to stay in touch when we are not within touching distance but it also allows us to share so much more of our lives with each other than ever before. The young tend to pick up on new concepts more quickly than the rest as they are not held back by their own preconceptions. The young don’t ask the question “But why would I want to share so much of myself online?” the young just jump in and start sharing. We old fogies are playing catch up.
If there is to be a silver lining to a very grey cloud for the grey and silver haired among you remember this one day those that are young today with all their boundless hope and energy will be middle aged, curmudgeonly and complaining just like you and I!
There are a lot of other interesting facts in the OFCOM Consumer Report, but I will let you discover those for yourself.