Know your 'arse' from your 'hello'

November 11, 2005

In the past, a true cad might have ended a love affair by letter. Now, it seems, men are just as likely to do the dirty deed via text message.

A study of the behaviour of young mobile phone users by researchers at Sheffield Hallam University found that mobile phone etiquette is still very much up in the air.

But there is little doubt that men and women use their phones differently.

The research, which centred on 18 to 30-year-olds, found that women write longer text messages than men. They use an average of 82 characters whereas men use an average of 68.

Women are wordiest when they are texting other women, and men are at their least verbose when communicating with other men. And the style of texting differs markedly between the sexes.

The study, which included volunteers keeping diaries of phone usage and recording text messages, discovered that men were more likely to be sarcastic, to use sexual humour and to swear. Women were more likely to use their mobiles to send messages of support or affection.

Simeon Yates, senior lecturer in communication studies at Sheffield Hallam who led the research, said: "Some of the swearing between men is about showing emotional support. Out of the blue they text 'Fuck off' and the reply is 'You arse'. It means 'I'm here, how are you?'"

Focus group discussions revealed that there was still a lot of uncertainty about "text etiquette".

A number of women said that they had been dumped by text message.

Dr Yates said there was debate among young women about the rights and wrongs of texting men. He said: "They were debating whether you should use kisses at the end.

"One woman asked: 'If you met someone on Saturday night and they haven't called by Monday, when should you text?'"

The researchers found that men were more likely to speak on their phone while they were in a group - although they typically chose to talk to girlfriends or mothers away from the group.

Women were less likely to answer their phone if it rang while they were in company.

Both men and women admitted to using text messages as a means of avoiding difficult social interactions.

As one participant explained, "it is easier to get out of things" in a brief text message.

Men admitted that they used text messages when they didn't want people around them to know what they were saying.


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