How Do We Communicate?

A few years ago, Gallup published a study on how Americans communicate. The results were illuminating even if unsurprising: we text, make phone calls, and use email more than we use social media; those under 50 text more than they use any other mode of communication; very few of us regularly use landlines; and, even among 18 to 29-year-olds, relatively few of us use Twitter.

This information, if employed well, can help you refine and develop marketing strategies. (Indeed, it’s clear that every business that stands to benefit should be trying to harness our collective texting habit.)

(Check out how we here at FranFunnel are using texting and messaging.)

But what if we want finer-grained data?

Helpful though Gallup’s pole is, it tells us relatively little about how communication differs across various demographics.

So here are a few facts about how differences in gender, age, education, and income-level correlate with different communication tendencies. Of course, the below is far from exhaustive, but the trends that I've picked out seem to be good points of departure for anyone curious about how we communicate today.


As the table below shows, compared to men, women express a greater preference for texting, social networking, and video chatting.

Notably, women also use text messaging, phone calls, social networking, and video calls more frequently than men do.

Interestingly, though, other research suggests that women and men use (with any frequency) messaging apps (WhatsApp, Kik, or iMessage) and auto-delete apps (e.g., SnapChat, Wickr) at very similar rates. 

However, men and women use tend to use  the top social media websites at different rates. 

77% of women who use the internet use Facebook while only 66% of male internet users do.

The same trend holds for Instagram, Pintrest, and Tumblr, but men use Twitter and discussion forums—like Reddit, Digg, and Slashdot—more than women. 

Roughly the same portion of men and women who use the internet use LinkedIn: 26% of male internet users and 25% of female internet users.


Of course, the younger one is, the more that one texts and emails. The chart below shows just how true this is for texting.

But what else do we know?

We know that 49% of 18-29 year olds use messaging apps and 41% use auto-delete apps. Meanwhile, only 37% of 30-49 year olds use messaging apps and only 11% use auto-delete apps. This trend continues for those over 50: 24% use messaging apps and 4% use auto-delete apps.

Similarly, with the predictable exception of LinkedIn, use of social media and discussion forums (Facebook, Instagram, Pintrest, tumblr, Reddit, Digg, Slashdot) correlates negatively with age.

However, regardless of age, the vast majority of smartphone owners use—with some regularity (at least once per week)—their phones to text, browse the internet, make video calls, and send emails. The chart below depicts these trends well.

But, as this chart suggests, age groups use their phones quite differently, even though almost everyone uses the basic functions. Far more than their older counterparts, young people use the internet, social networking sites (SNS), watch videos, and listen to music on their phone.


Those with higher levels of education use messaging apps at higher rates and auto-delete apps at lower rates.

High levels of education and income also correlate positively and strongly with use of LinkedIn and, to a lesser degree, Twitter. 

Level of education does not, however, correlate with Facebook use, and level of income bears only a weakly positive correlation with the same.

There is little research—so far as I am aware—on whether or how levels of education and income influence texting, calling, or emailing.

Of course, those with very low-income struggle to pay for phone and internet services.

Relatedly, 7% of Americans rely on their phones as their main point of access to the internet, and those who are in this way dependent on their phones are disproportionately people of color. We also know that those dependent on their phones for internet access tend to have more difficulty paying their phone bills.


With the exception of a few websites and applications, those in urban settings use social media and messaging apps more than those in suburban settings, who in turn use them more than those in rural settings.

To take one representative case, 42% of urban smartphone owners use messaging apps, while only 37% of suburban smartphone owners and 22% of rural smartphone owners do. 

Although there is relatively little research on race and communication trends (so far as I'm aware), we know that 75% of those who identify as Hispanic use Facebook, while 70% of those who identify as white and 67% of those who identify as black use Facebook.

This trend changes dramatically depending on the website or application. People of color use Instagram and Twitter more than white people do, but white people tend to use LinkedIn somewhat more than people of color do.

Interestingly, the type of device on which one views an email correlates with the amount of time that one spends viewing an email. Those who use android phones spend the longest time reading:


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