The Temptation to Text Overpowers Social Etiquette

College students will text anywhere — in the shower, on the toilet, and even while they're having sex. So, why are young adults so compelled to respond?

Texting has its time and place, and yet a recent study has shown that college students will text just about anywhere, at any time. But researchers argue that it's not for a lack of social etiquette that these youngsters text in the shower, on the toilet, or even during sex; it's that the allure is too great to pass up.


The researchers polled 150 college students about their texting habits as a way to better understand what draws them to do it. In the survey, 85 percent of respondents admitted to texting in class, 84 percent while hanging out with a friend, and 71 percent while at a paid movie. What's more, they all acknowledged that texting in these situations in socially unacceptable.

Lead author Marissa Harrison reflected on the situation in an interview with Pacific Standard, saying:

“For the most part, they agreed on what was inappropriate, but many reported doing it anyway. ... The evidence suggests that these social norms are not being re-written, just written over in a given situation. They know when it’s wrong, but they’re doing it anyway.” 

She sees this breach in etiquette not as a sign that younger generations are creating new rules, but that they're not resisting the urge to follow the one's already established by society. From an evolutionary standpoint, she reasons that:

“Humans are programmed to pay attention to moving things. The fact that we can’t help but look at the screen — I see why it distracts us and attracts us. If you’re out with your date and you text anyway, it doesn’t explain that, but the notion that we’re attracted to moving and changing things is hardwired into us.”

It would be interesting to hear whether these results could be reproduced with older, more fully developed brains. Ones that are less susceptible to the same impulses that drive younger adults.

Read more at Pacific Standard.

Photo Credit: Jim Pennucci/ Flickr

Perhaps, young adults should take after Dan Harris. In his Big Think interview, the Nightline anchor reveals how meditation can increase self-awareness, maybe helping compulsive texters to take in the situation before they pick up their phone to respond.

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