It’s that time of year again: Love is in the air, flowers and chocolates are being sold in droves, and restaurant reservations are filling up fast. And while many couples are finalizing their Valentine’s Day plans, others are looking for new love. Online dating has taken the modern world by storm, and in the age of the smartphone, much of that online dating activity is conducted by phone—and by text.
According to the Pew (News - Alert) Research Center's newest report on couples, the Internet, and social media, singles who take part in online dating, as well as people in relationships, are sending more text messages than ever. But those text messages are of a certain, explicit variety, known colloquially as “sexting.” Pew surveyed a sample of 2,252 adults last year, and found that 9 percent of cell phone owners have sent a suggestive picture or video, while 20 percent have received one. Moreover, there seems to be an increase in texting use, as the act of sending a “sext” is up 3 percent year over year, and the rate of those who have received a “sext” is up 5 percent since Pew's previous survey in 2012.
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While sexting is not exclusive to online daters, the research group found that individuals using dating sites are far more likely to send, receive, or forward a sext than other singles and those in relationships. Over half of online daters—55 percent—have received suggestive images via text message, 31 percent have sent one, and 9 percent have forwarded a sext. To make a long story short, “online daters are significantly more likely than non-online daters to perform all three activities.” It may come as no surprise to also learn that smartphone users ages 18 to 24 are more likely to say they receive suggestive messages than older smartphone users.
Ultimately, as Pew points out, the building trend is that the use of online dating and “sexting” has coincided with an overall rise in smartphone use and text messaging. More people on cell phones means more people using text messaging on a regular basis to interact with others. And during the week of Valentine’s Day, text messaging is a great way to quickly and efficiently reach out to loved ones. So, while “sexting” may not be the first use of text messaging that comes to mind when you think of the technology, it’s just one more use of a highly versatile and growing communication tool.
Edited by Blaise McNamee