In February 2013, we did a survey across 44 mobile phone users asking two questions:
Think about the people you exchange the most messages with via your mobile phone:
- On average, how fast do they typically respond to one of your messages?
- On average, how fast do you typically respond to one of their messages?
The results are stunning:
64% of the respondents believe that people with whom they message the most typically respond to their messages immediately or within a few minutes. Only 9% expect responses after more than an hour.
68% of the respondents believe that they typically respond to people with whom they exchange a lot of messages immediately or within a few minutes. Only 6% typically respond after more than an hour.
These numbers are notable, because they reflect people’s expectations. If a friend typically responds immediately, it might feel strange when one day s/he doesn’t. Also, if oneself typically responds within minutes, one might start feeling anxious if circumstances prevent to respond to a message for hours.
In another study, the Do Not Disturb Challenge, where people disabled notifications across all devices for a day, we actually had instances where participants did not respond fast enough and friends got angry as a consequence.
Think about how drastic these expectations are: many activities, such as meetings, driving to work, attending classes, last a lot longer than a few minutes – and they require people’s full attention. Hence, people are faced with a choice: text during meetings or from behind the wheel, or violate expectations.