Phone calls still favored by adults for communicating with others

Social networks and texting, ranked next, are preferred by teens, survey says

Voice phone communication and email are still preferred by Americans over social networks, texting and other messaging modes for reaching out to family, friends and co-workers, according to a new survey of 2,300 adults.

Email was the preferred mode (other than in-person communication) for reaching out to friends and colleagues. Meanwhile, voice via phone was the preferred mode for communicating with family members, such as a spouse or significant other, according to the survey.

The survey by Harris Interactive was conducted online from May 17-19 with 2,361 U.S. adults age 18 and over. It was sponsored by Rebtel, a mobile voice-over-IP provider.

"The more things change, the more they stay the same, and nothing comes close to replacing the familiar sound of a loved one's voice at the end of the line," noted Rebtel CEO Andreas Bernstrom, in a comment on the survey.

One of the most significant findings was how much email and phone calls are preferred over social networks, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, and over texting and instant messaging, which are generally heavily favored by teens. Video chat, which is not widely used, fell to the bottom in the ratings.

The findings didn't show a large difference in using either email or voice with any group. The largest difference between voice and email was for communication with a spouse or significant other, where only 61% of those said they use other technology when not communicating in person. Of those 61%, the survey found that 85% used voice/phone, 58% used texting, and 56% used email.

For work communication, 58% said they would use technology rather than speaking in person. Of that group, the largest number favored email (73%), followed closely by voice/phone (71%) to reach a colleague.

For communicating with friends, respondents favored email (82%) over voice (74%). Communication with family other than a spouse narrowly favored voice (81%) over using email (80%).

Social networks ranked low (23%) when used by spouses to communicate with each other and were highest when reaching out to friends (61%).

Use of video chat ranged from 4% to 13% among those surveyed.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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