Americans are sending more texts than ever before. But there are signs that this growth is beginning to slow down.
The figures come from the latest release from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. It comes from a survey in April that’s directly comparable to one carried out at the same time last year, and largely similar to one from the fall of 2009.
While most press reports have concentrated on the amount of texts sent, perhaps the most surprising statistic is that only 73 percent of adults who own a cellphone say they send or receive texts, if only occasionally. There isn’t an explanation for those that don’t, but it seems likely to be split between those who simply use the phone as an emergency contact, and those who communicate entirely though online services such as social networks or messaging features.
Back to the number of texts sent, and the daily mean average rose from 29.7 in 2009 to 39.1 in 2010 to 41.5 this year. If that sounds ridiculously high, it’s because it’s being skewed by a few frankly insane users. The median number remained the same as last year at 10, meaning 50 percent of users sent fewer than 10 messages a day.
While data from three years is hardly a conclusive pattern, it is possible that the rise is beginning to plateau. It could simply be that, freaks aside, people are starting to hit the point where it doesn’t matter how cheap or simple texts are, there are only so many you can be bothered to type in a day.
And in case you hadn’t figured out who it is that’s skewing the figures, its young people. Half of all texters aged 18-24 send 50 or more messages a day, and one in eight of them send more than 200 a day.
The survey also looked at other demographics, finding that people who are black, poorly educated, from poorer households, or some combination of the three, are considerably more likely to send a lot of texts. That may be as simple as these groups either being less likely to afford devices that allow other forms of mobile communication, or less willing to communicate through “full-length” messages such as e-mail.