In 2010, we sent a thumb-numbing 6.1 trillion text messages. That’s 192 000 per second. Hardly surprising then that the telecoms industry earns $114.6 billion a year from our obsession and that smartphones have been specially designed to make texting easier. But what is it about human nature that makes us text so much?
A matter of ego
Mankind has an ego so it needs to speak out – it really is as simple as that. Cavemen and women drew on cave walls to show others their hunting ability, their families or a lovely sharp stone they once found. Then came the telephone and fired up our ego even more. We could ‘love the sound of our own voices’ and instantly have someone at the other end.
Greedy for the written word
The telephone was great and phones that we could hold in our hands seemed even more miraculous, even when they were the size of bricks. But they didn’t give you the time – or the control – to compose a message, to think before you spoke. Words on the phone just disappeared. Texting gave people that perfect balance – we could filter what we said and keep a record of it. There is also something emotive and exciting about texting – like a tiny letter in your pocket.
It’s a chemical romance
And it’s not just the emotional enjoyment. Dopamine, a simple organic chemical, could also be the cause of the constant desire to send and a receive texts. It plays a major role in the brain system responsible for reward-driven learning. Every type of reward that has been studied increases the level of dopamine transmission in the brain. Smartphones become miniature slot machines, which reward us with the beep of an incoming message.
And teenagers are the most addicted. They grew up with a rattle in one hand and a mobile in the other. It’s all they know. According to a study by Pew, 75 percent of all American teens text, and 63 percent text at least daily. Older girls remain the most active texters, with a median of 100 texts a day, compared with 50 for boys the same age. It allows them to communicate in their own special language, one that locks the rest of the world out and turns them all into a new type of writer.
It’s GR8 2 write
English teachers tutted at sms text speak – it used to be all about abbreviating in a semi-literate way – even inserting numbers instead of words. Mention that to a teenager now and they will sigh, ‘That’s so 90s.’ Predictive texting means we can use proper language that although short, is still effective. John Donne said that ‘No man is a island.’ With social networking, no one has to feel alone and we can network poetically. So poetically in fact, that Britain’s poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, believes the fun and creativity of mobile texting will turn today’s children into the exciting poets of tomorrow.
That’s it in a nutshell – texting shows people that we are alive, that we matter. It’s driven by our chemical desire for reward and our need to keep constantly in touch with our peers. Now, we can all be writers, but at a speed that suits the modern world.
So are you a budding text poet, do you get a kick out of messaging or is it purely the need to communicate? We’d love to hear your thoughts, either here or @Nokia_Connects