Text messaging expands, includes TV show voting

Abbey Stirgwolt

Polls have shown that American youth aren’t the most reliable voting demographic in existence.

A 2004 study by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement reported that youth-voter turnout has declined by one-third “since 18-year-olds were first eligible to vote.”

That’s not to say, however, that the 18-to-24 set isn’t good at voting: It depends upon what they’re voting for – or maybe how they do it.

Enter text messaging.

Popularized by the television hit “American Idol,” text message voting was responsible for 2.5 million “Idol” votes during the 2003 season, according to USA Today.

Since that time, text messaging – commercial and personal – has taken the American population by storm, with 63 percent of Americans age 18-27 using text messages each month for chatting with friends during class, getting weather updates or even receiving the latest sales promotions from various retail and electronics companies, according to the Pew Research Center.

For some students, text messaging can be a source of entertainment for boring classes or situations when it would be impossible to talk on a phone.

“(I text message) if I’m bored at work or in class and can’t actually call someone,” said freshman biology major Sara Johnson.

Johnson and her friend, freshman radiology major Lauren Hiengphothichack agreed on the number of text messages they use in one week: “A lot.”

In recent years, text messaging has expanded to include not only reality show voting, but also advertising, weather and traffic updates and even reminders of salon appointments.

The Web site salon.textalert.com, for example, allows salon owners to alert customers of upcoming appointments, new products and new promotions.

Text messaging also has an answer to Internet dating. A program called “Mobile Flirt,” offered by www.sms.ac, promises an “optimal flirt experience” for those who sign up.

In spite of the potential benefits of promotions such as these, Johnson said she’d rather save her text messages for personal use.

“(Receiving promotions) would use up the texts I have,” she said.

And there are always those who remain unbitten by the text message bug.

Freshman anthropology major Dan Saraceno has text messaging on his phone but chooses not to use it.

“I’ve used it, like . . . three times – maybe,” he said.

Contact technology reporter Abbey Stirgwolt at [email protected].