Limitless communication, in 160 characters or less 

Oh, hello there. Would you pardon me for a moment while I respond to this text message from a friend? Greatest apologies.

And — done. Sorry again, but I just love sending text messages from my mobile phone to communicate with colleagues and family members, moreso even than placing voice calls. Don’t you?

Apparently you do, as a very recent study by wireless research firm Nielsen Mobile found that Americans are now transmitting and receiving significantly more text messages than phone calls. On average, Americans are sending or receiving 357 text messages per month, and only making 204 phone calls.

That got me thinking. Why — oh, one moment.

Hoho, what an amusing 37-character observation! Truly sorry, just received an uproarious message from my grandmother.

Back to the point. Why are text messages becoming more popular than voice communications? Being a scientist, the concept of parsimony — in a general sense, following the path of least resistance — came to mind.

Is the rise in text usage (and fall in voice usage) the result of text conversations being simpler and more efficient? Let us — ah, fantastic.

Sorry, just got a text about some exciting dinner reservations.

As I was saying, let us see. According to Nielsen, those 204 phone calls took an average of 800 minutes, meaning each voice conversation lasted approximately 3.9 minutes.

But how many messages constitute a text-messaging conversation, and how long does one take? Since each sent or received phone call is an entire conversation, let’s say for the sake of argument that a person takes part in just as many text “conversations” — a discrete grouping of one or more text messages — as phone conversations in a month. Dividing — hmm? Oh, sorry.

Had to ignore a call from a colleague. Texts only please — some people have work to do.

Dividing the average number of text messages in a month (357) by the number of conversations (204) yields the average number of text messages per conversation: 1.75.

Now, for a proper comparison, I had to do a little research of my own to supplement Nielsen’s data. Observing a large group of young college students in a high-energy environment —
listening to an enthralling guest lecturer (me) — I found that the average text message took about one minute to type, send, and be read by the recipient on a standard mobile phone. So it — oh, one second.

What’s this? Just got an advertisement via text message. Brilliant!

So it appears the average text conversation takes 1.75 minutes (1 minute per text times 1.75 texts per conversation), compared to 3.9 minutes for a phone conversation. Wonderful! On a larger scale, texting all conversations would save 443 minutes per month, or 5,316 minutes per year, proving to be a truly more efficient and effective method of — oops, gotta run.

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