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Britain: A nation of txt addicts who prefer Twitter to phoning mum

Don't bother calling, we're too busy 'turfing' - Ofcom

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Brits are chatting online and spewing messages from phones more than ever as gossiping in voice calls declines for the first time.

Calling from mobiles is only down a smidgen on last year, slipping about 1 per cent, according to an annual report from communications watchdog Ofcom.

But the volume of fixed-line calls dropped by 10 per cent as nattering on social networking websites becomes the best way to stay in touch.

Roughly one-in-10 people in the UK have tablet computers, which are handy for Twittering and Facebooking. These fondleslabs contributed to the three internet-connected devices found in the average home.

That might seem small, but like all averages it denies the mean. 15 per cent of homes have more than six connected devices - your humble hack guesses that many Register readers fall into that category, along with larger families – but that's offset by the many homes which remain reliant on a single PC. It does highlight the irrelevance of parents using desktop software to limit what their kids see on the internet.

Children are already moving beyond email and the web, which like phone calls are for the last generation. The average Brit sends 50 "txt" SMS messages a week - but 90 per cent of those aged 16 to 24 text friends and family daily, compared to 73 per cent who use social networks and a mere 63 per cent who bother talking face to face.

One might conclude that normal conversation is dying out, but go back 30 years and one didn’t communicate with friends "daily" at all. So while it might look as though texting is more popular than being together, it could equally well be seen as just additional contact rather than replacing a physical interaction.

Indeed, Ofcom noted that "UK adults of all ages say that they prefer to communicate face-to-face with their friends and family". The report added: "However, two-thirds of adults say that technology has changed the way they communicate, while just under six in 10 say that new communications methods have made their lives easier."

At the other end of the spectrum, those over the age of 65 aren't using social networking at all, well, 96 per cent of them aren't. That group still prefers to talk by phone, over a landline, although 17 per cent are turning to their mobile phones to stay in touch.

The drop in mobile voice calling, even of one per cent, should worry the network operators a lot. Voice still makes up the vast majority of their revenue, and despite calls getting cheaper year on year the revenue as been sustained by a corresponding increase in volume. If the volume isn't going up any more than something will have to give: the operators might even have to start making money on data.

No such problems for the Post Office, which managed to increase sales despite carrying out fewer deliveries, which is very interesting.

The annual report runs to 411 pages [PDF, ideal for a rainy afternoon] is full of such details including the fact that ten per cent of us now have an e-reader, and we're watching four hours of TV a day, but that's OK 'cos we're "turfing" it - yes, we're watching TV while surfing the internet. Try not to think about that too much. ®

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