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“I know I shouldn’t text from the toilet,  but….”

Friday, April 24, 2015
posted by Rita Handrich

ToiletTexting-infographic2People take selfies at funerals and text during sex. Others text while in the shower or while using the toilet (which apparently is not just for newspapers and books any longer). And wherever there are social faux pas’ you can bet academic researchers are not far behind. In fact, today we have research on just when young adults think texting is unacceptable behavior (but do it anyway).

The research question may strike you as odd: “Is texting while in the shower, or during sex, or while going to the bathroom the new normal?” but on such odd questions, professorial tenure is granted. Participants were 152 students (88 women, 64 men; average age 19.7; 55.1% White, 21.1% Asian, 8.8% African-American, 6.8% Hispanic, 2.7% Middle Eastern, and 5.5% other) at a “mid-sized university in the northeastern US”. Students completed the survey online and responded to questions about their texting behavior and what they saw as an appropriate situation/environment for texting. Their responses provide an amusing, sometimes surprising and disconcerting, view into their texting behaviors.

More than 1/3 (34.3%) reported sending or receiving 100 or more text messages a day. They reported checking for text messages an average of every 3.78 minutes (with one checking 200 times an hour!).

Students rated a number of situations as socially acceptable for texting. They thought for example, it was socially acceptable to send texts for flirting and romance, to stay connected to friends, to escape boredom, and while going to the bathroom.

Of note is that 83.3% had sent texts while going to the bathroom.

There were many texting situations not deemed socially acceptable but often done regardless of acceptability. For example, texting during class was not acceptable, but 84.7% had done this. Texting in the shower is unacceptable and 34% have done this. Texting during the Pledge of Allegiance is unacceptable and 11.3% have done it. Texting while having sex is unacceptable and 7.4% have done it. Talking to a friend and texting another at the same time is unacceptable and between 79% and 84% have done it. Texting one person in whom you are romantically interested while on a date with someone else is unacceptable and 21.5% have done it. Breaking up by text is unacceptable and 26% have done it. Sending text messages while at a funeral is unacceptable and 10.1% have done it. Texting during a job interview is unacceptable and 2.7% have done it. Fighting with some via text is unacceptable and 66% have done it. Sexting is unacceptable and 42% have done it.

Overall say the authors, texting is obviously an important means of communicating. They conclude by saying:

“Text messaging is not necessarily creating a new culture—a new normal—but it is conducive to allowing someone to believe they transcend social boundaries or that those social boundaries do not apply to them in the texting moment”.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, this study tells us how ubiquitous texting is for young adults across many different types of situations. Whether having sex, using the toilet, taking a shower, talking to a friend, or interviewing for a job—texting may happen whether it is seen as socially acceptable or not. This should likely be, as we say in Texas, “cause for pause” as to the effectiveness of the courtroom directives to not communicate about a case during trial.

Harrison, M., Bealing, C., & Salley, J. (2015). 2 TXT or not 2 TXT: College students’ reports of when text messaging is social breach The Social Science Journal DOI: 10.1016/j.soscij.2015.02.005

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