Since the first SMS was sent in 1992 from Neil Papworth to Richard Jarvis, text messaging has taken off as a significant part of our culture.
Text messaging has invented – or destroyed – a language and has become a part of our culture, whether we like it or not. The small phone keyboard associated with text messaging made for interesting spelling adaptations and different data plans meant that common words needed to be shortened. The “texting language” came out of a form of internet shorthand.
Canadians were a little slower to adopt the texting trend and we still lag behind a lot of the world, but we’re adopting it more and more.
According to the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA), Canadians sent 35.3 billion peer-to-peer text messages in 2009. That’s a 70% increase from 2008’s 20.8 billion text messages.
The busiest month out of 2009 was December, as you might expect. 3.77 billion peer-to-peer text messages were sent in that month, many of which might have reflected the “Merry Christmas” message first sent back in 1992 by Papworth to Jarvis.
As you might expect, young people are the most insatiable of texters. In the United States, a third of teenagers with cell phones send more than 100 texts a day. Three-fourths of young people in America own cell phones.
The Pew Internet and American Life Project has seen an explosion in text messages over the last several months among America’s youth. The numbers are exploding just like Canada’s rising textual statistics and the reason behind the digits may have a lot to do with carriers creating more accommodating data plans.
Unlimited talk-and-text plans are all the rage, both here in Canada and in the United States. Most providers have versions of unlimited texting plans, so the teens are putting the data to the test.
But is the ubiquity of text messaging having a harmful social effect? According to the Pew study, 87% of those who text actually sleep with or next to their phones. Studies on textual addiction have been around for years, with no tangible answers offered. But some recent studies are showing an actual physical reaction when teens are removed from social networking and information sources, so perhaps there’s something to the idea of textual addiction.
If anything, it’s fair to say that there is a culture of texting and it is growing. With Canada’s providers pushing unlimited texting plans, it’s harder and harder to resist the allure of infinite text messages.