Young adults on smartphones

NEW YORK — If the emoji movie wasn’t symbolic enough of today’s youth, perhaps this will rattle your foundation: A new survey finds that 7 in 10 millennials and the younger Gen Z prefer to communicate digitally — mostly by text message — than in person.

Researchers at LivePerson, a business solutions provider, polled more than 4,000 young adults under between age 18 and 34 in a handful of Western nations, helping them discover the priorities and preferences of today’s millennials and Gen Z.

Young women using smartphones
A new survey finds that 7 in 10 millennials and those who make up the younger Gen Z cohort prefer to communicate digitally with others than in person.

Globally, 65 percent of those surveyed indicated they talk to peers more frequently via texting or a mobile, but that number is even higher in English-speaking nations. In both the United States and in the United Kingdom, about 74 percent of millennials and Gen Z communicate digitally more frequently with others.

As for the tool of choice for digital correspondence, about 73 percent of Americans and 74 percent of those in the UK prefer text messages. That number dipped to about 69 percent globally.

The survey also discovered another odd quirk of today’s young adults: about 62 percent would rather forget their wallet at home than their phone when going out.

Seventy percent of the participants said that they slept within arm’s length of their phone, and a  hair more than half said they’d check their phone for any notifications should they wake up in the middle of the night.

When it comes to bathroom breaks, nearly 66 percent brought their device with them to the toilet, which highlights the ubiquity of connectivity.

Large minorities believed it was fine to use their phone in contexts that would likely be considered improper by elders, such as at the dining table (42 percent) or in the middle of a conversation (28 percent).

Nearly 70 percent of the group surveyed said they could see a future in which all purchases are made online, and most young consumers prioritized using technology when they needed assistance with a product or service.

“We wanted to look more closely at the younger consumer audience, across different countries, and in more depth than the well-known trope that young people love their smartphones,” says Rurik Bradbury, LivePerson’s global head of communications and research, of the study’s origins, in a press release. “What we see in the research data is the phone truly becoming an extension of the self, and the platforms and apps within it— digital life— occupying more than their offline interactions.”

The poll reached millennials and Gen Z members across six countries— the U.S., the UK, Australia, France, Germany, and Japan — in mid-September.

Administered by independent research firm Survata, participants received no compensation for their input.

About Daniel Steingold

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181 Comments

  1. speed says:

    The real “walking dead”….

  2. Bob Donovitch says:

    I’ll admit I rarely talk on the phone anymore. A quick text is just so much more convenient. But, still nothing is as pleasurable as having a good face to face conversation with an old friend.

  3. 1911 says:

    Too easy to be offensive and not pay the price- digitally, while at the same time claiming to be offended by anything and everything. All part of the immature irresponsible nature that’s being taught to kids these days.

  4. Onceler's Revenge says:

    good luck nailing that job interview via text. unless it’s for starbucks or the apple store. which is where you millennials belong. and stop looking at me like im a kook when i ask for a regular coffee.

  5. ckblue15 says:

    As a 29-year old Millenial, I’m actually surprised by how LOW those findings are (with only ~73% of 18-34 year old Millenials indicating their preferred form of digital communication).
    Even though the study included ~4,000 participants, I would bet significant amounts of money that 89%+ of younger participants (i.e. 18-25 years old) prefer digital over non-digital communications. The reason comes from my background in teaching across several different states, and working with students ages 6-18. Yes, the direct implication of that statement is a clear majority of young children have cell phones, and that “majority” will be become the “overwhelming majority” within 3-5 years.
    In other words, the study missed the mark. Older participants (age 30+) are somewhat less likely to prefer digital communication, as they can remember, “A Time Without Digital Communication” – including no cell phones, tablets, smartwatches, laptops, instant messenger/chatrooms, “You’ve got mail!,” online dating, etc. In fact, the most portable digital items I had were Tamagachis/Digimons and Game Boys (remember those?). More communication was done via phone call, or (for older citizens) letter writing. And, yes, I am a member of that generation; I very clearly remember life prior to the digital revolution and immersion into our lives.
    For that reason, the Millenials (born 1980-2000) can be thought of as in the following groups:
    Oldest Millenials (born 1980-1984) – Lesser preference for digital communication; clearest memories of the pre-digital era of all Millenials
    Middle Millenials (born 1985-1992) – Could go either way; still have clear memories of the pre-digital era, but lesser in pre-digital quantity and impact on way of living
    Younger Millenials (born 1993-1995) – Greater preference for digital communication; fewer to no memories of the pre-digital era, with pre-digital impact having negligible impact on way of living
    Youngest Millenials (born 1995-2000) – Greatest preference for digital communication; no memories of the pre-digital era, as memories must be handed down from older Millenials (above) and previous generations.

  6. cleo48 says:

    I look at it as being a defence mechanism. It’s a way for people to keep a really demanding world at a controllable “arms length.” I’m not suggesting it’s good or bad. But I’m beginning to understand why folks put themselves behind a firewall.

  7. Neptus 9 says:

    Ideas have precedence over the subtle interpersonal exchanges, which are usually bullying efforts.