According to a Radicati Group study from the first quarter of 2006, there are about 1.1 billion e-mail users worldwide. That translates into about one in every six persons on the earth using email. ABC News says that there are more than two billion cell phone subscribers worldwide.
Besides our individual personalities, our heritage may play a significant role in the way that we use cell phones and e-mail.
Since the summer months, Converse senior Mara Traynham of Greer, SC and Dr. Bill Baker, associate professor of psychology, have been studying the cell phone and e-mail habits of blacks, whites and Hispanics in the Spartanburg area. Their research is funded by South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities. Going into the study, we knew that for the most part introverts preferred e-mail over cell phones because they control when they read and answer e-mail, and how long their response is, explained Mara. For the most part, extroverts prefer the interaction of cell phones.
But Mara and Baker wanted to delve deeper into subcultures to determine if collectivist or individualist family models use cell phones and e-mails differently. The collectivist societies are prominent in Asian countries, and are based upon the goals of the group being more important than the individual. A good way to describe their thinking is the nail that sticks out gets hammered, said Mara. Individualism is more inherent in Western societies with the belief that its the squeaky wheel that gets the grease and needs of the individual are most important.
Mara and Baker devised a questionnaire and gave it to 52 blacks, 52 whites and 52 Hispanics. Our questionnaire included 30 questions such as how many calls a day you get, how many people you give your cell phone number to, whether you feel hemmed in and crowded by your cell phone, whether you feel freed by it and how lost you would feel without it, said Baker.
As they went into the study, both felt that blacks and Hispanics shared strong traits of collective societies, and enjoyed strong bonds with family and friends which would make them more inclined to use cell phones over e-mail. But there were a few surprises found in the study.
First, we should note all three groups responded positively to both cell phones and e-mail, explained Baker. All groups rate them as more of an uplift than a hassle. Not surprisingly, all of them feel that their lives are improved by both avenues of communication. However, cell phone use is more embedded in the lives of Hispanics than either of the other groups. Whites were next and blacks are last.
Among the more significant findings were that blacks have their cell phones on less than the other two groups, and they give their cell phone number to fewer people. On the other hand, Hispanics see cell phones as more important to achieving personal and professional goals than do blacks and whites. They are more likely to feel lost without their cell phones. Hispanics make many more calls to friends than to family members, and they differ from both blacks and whites in this regard. In general, cell phones play less of a role in the social lives of blacks than either of the other two groups, and they play more of a role in the social lives of Hispanics, with whites falling in between.
The same pattern was true of e-mail. Blacks were much less likely to use e-mail. Hispanics were more likely to find it important in achieving personal and professional goals, and were less likely to resent the time spent in answering emails, said Baker. Of course, what is fun about this kind of research is not onl