Won't say it, will text it: 69 per cent Indians

By Ashwini Gangal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Digital | October 04, 2013
A study by Ipsos reveals that seven out of 10 Indians say things via text messages and emails that they wouldn't say on the phone or in person.

Every time you punch 'LOL' into a gadget, are you really laughing out loud or thinking about the best way to acknowledge that person's wit? Probably not. We behave differently with the same people depending on whether we're interacting with them face-to-face or through a machine. And Ipsos' recent findings almost suggest the existence of an alter ego for the latter.

Global findings

The finding states that seven out of 10 Indians (69 per cent) admit they say things in text messages or in emails that they would not say in a voice-to-voice or person-to-person situation. Globally, this figure is 43 per cent. Not surprisingly, the figure jumps to 54 per cent for those under the age of 35. For those above the age of 50 - or 'the generation that was raised before fingers started doing all the talking', as the study puts it - the figure plummets to 26 per cent.

India is a country of youngsters; over 50 per cent of our current population is under the age of 25. With every other brand now repositioning itself as a 'youth brand', marketers may find it worth their while to note that their TG prefers communicating by typing over speaking.

Examples of things people prefer to say in writing, as opposed to over the phone or in person, include: 'I love you', 'Our relationship is over', 'You are fired', 'I just got a tattoo', and 'I failed an exam'. The reason, states the study, is to avoid embarrassment. The general belief, one reiterated by Ipsos, is that text messages and emails are comparatively impersonal media of communication, making people less hesitant to speak their minds.

In China, a whopping 90 per cent respondents said 'Yes' in response to the question 'Do you say things via text or email that you would not say voice-to-voice or person-to-person?' On this parameter Sweden and Norway rank lowest at 22 per cent.

As far as Indian data goes, out of a total of 500 respondents, 258 were male and 242 were female. Those under the age of 35 (75 per cent) are considerably more likely than those aged between 35-49 years (67 per cent) and those between 50-64 years (52 per cent) to text/email things they won't say out loud.


At first glance on part of the untrained eye, the global data may appear as though the Chinese prefer 'impersonal' modes of communication and the Norwegians prefer more 'personal' ones, that is, ones that involve actual talking. But this may just be a fallacy as those who use text and email frequently may perceive these as the most intimate ways of communicating. Who knows, they may reserve phone conversations for clipped, to-the-point exchange of mundane information and share sensitive matter through devices that involve typing. Point being, to many, the mere use of voice needn't make a conversation 'personal'. Perhaps a qualitative study can highlight the reasons for such varied preferences across the globe.

Findings like these may have implications for marketers of telecom, handset or PC brands. While advertising campaigns have encouraged users to open up and speak their minds, knowing users' preferred medium may help fine tune creative execution. Of course, this could have implications for mobile marketing experts, too.

Another thought that comes up is that when something is communicated via text or mail, there's a record of it, unlike when it is uttered into a phone or to someone's face. Perhaps research agencies can look at whether this, in part, motivates India's preference for sharing things through devices.

For the record, the poll has been conducted by market and opinion research firm Ipsos OTX or Open Thinking Exchange, the global innovation centre for Ipsos. The study was conducted among 18,502 adults in 25 countries in August this year.

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