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Expand chart
Data: SurveyMonkey poll conducted Nov. 9 to 13 among 1,820 U.S. adults. Total margin of error is ±3 percentage points. Modeled error estimates: Ages 18–34 ±6, Ages 35–46 ±4, Ages 65+ ±7. Survey methodology. Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

We may sleep with our smartphones and spend multiple hours a day starting at device screens, but almost of half of American adults say they prefer in-person communication over other modes including text messages, emails or social media, per a poll conducted by SurveyMonkey for "Axios on HBO."

Why it matters: The rapid rise of social media and smartphones led some experts to worry that digital communication would replace face-to-face interaction, potentially leading to weaker relationships and less productivity. The results of the poll underscore that adults still value the human connection of an in-person conversation over text messages by a 21-point margin.

By the numbers: 42% of adults say they prefer in-person communication. Texting comes in at a distant second with 21% of adults, although that jumps to 28% among 18- to 34-year-olds. Phone calls (16%) and emails (15%) are roughly even in terms of preference.

Notable: Despite the popularity of social networks, only 2% prefer to communicate on social media platforms. That number drops to 1% for 35- to 64-year-olds, and jumps to 3% for those over 65.

Younger generations may not agree. For teenagers, reliance on technology is creeping up. Today's teens prefer texting over in-person communication, use social media multiple times a day, and admit that digital distractions interfere with homework, personal relationships and sleep, according to a survey of 13- to 17-year-olds by Common Sense Media.

  • The proportion of teens who prefer in-person interaction has plummeted from 49% in 2012 to 32% in 2018. Texting is now the favorite mode of communication.
  • 54% of teens agree that using social media often distracts them when they are with people, and 44% say they get frustrated when their friends are using their phones while hanging out.
  • Yet 55% say they hardly ever or never put their devices away when hanging out with friends.

Methodology: This analysis is based on a SurveyMonkey online poll conducted among adults ages 18 and older in the United States. Respondents were selected from the more than 2 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. The survey was conducted Nov. 9-13 among 1,820 U.S. adults. Total margin of error is ±3 percentage points. Modeled error estimates: Ages 18–34 ±6, Ages 35–46 ±4, Ages 65+ ±7. Full crosstabs are available here.

Go deeper:

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In photos: D.C. and U.S. states on alert for pre-inauguration violence

National Guard troops stand behind security fencing with the dome of the U.S. Capitol Building behind them, on Jan. 16. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Security has been stepped up in Washington, D.C., and state capitols across the U.S. as authorities brace for potential violence this weekend.

Driving the news: Following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by some supporters of President Trump, the FBI has said there could be armed protests in D.C. and in all 50 state capitols in the run-up to President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

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Rep. Lou Correa tests positive for COVID-19

Lou Correa. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) announced on Saturday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Correa is the latest Democratic lawmaker to share his positive test results after last week's deadly Capitol riot. Correa did not shelter in the designated safe zone with his congressional colleagues during the siege, per a spokesperson, instead staying outside to help Capitol Police.