Nov 20, 2018

Poll: Americans crave human interaction despite pervasive tech

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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.

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