Last updated January 15, 2024
Experts Warn That Fexting Is a Huge Problem as 80% of People Admit to Text-Fighting With Loved Ones
Warnings come as 60% of people say that arguing via text message has had a negative impact on their relationship…
What is Fexting?
Fexting, refers to fighting or arguing by text message. ‘Fexting”, a portmanteau of fighting and texting—has become endemic within our society. The convenience of text messaging (including WhatsApp and other instant messaging apps) means we can argue with each other remotely, with more ease than ever before.
Now experts warn that arguing via text message is a major issue throughout society in general. The sad fact of the matter is the majority of us will take to our smartphone in order to resolve differences (or not resolve them, as the case may be).
SellCell has conducted research into the fexting wave, to gain insight into how many people engage in fexting, who with, and why. This article also contains commentary from a leading relationship expert on how damaging arguing via text actually is, alongside some helpful tips to avoid getting embroiled in angry exchanges via text message. Smartphones are already ruining our sex lives. We shouldn’t let them ruin our entire relationships. Although, we see from the data below; the threat is genuine.
Main Findings – Fexting Statistics
- 79.61% of 1,064 people surveyed confirm that they have had an argument via text message. 20.39% of people have avoided engaging in conflict via their phone.
- 47.56% of respondents state that they use fexting to argue with their current or ex partner. 36.56% will argue with their friends via text.
- Most respondents (48.58%) state fexting allows them to consider what they are going to write to the person they’re arguing with.
- 59.83% of people say that arguing through text messages has had a negative impact on their relationship.
- The majority of respondents—59.72%—say that fexting actually prolongs an argument that would be shorter if it was in person.
- Between one and four minutes is the time it takes most respondents (30.37%) to respond to a nasty text message. 29.54% only taking up to one minute to retaliate by text.
SellCell surveyed 1,064 people, asking a variety of questions around fexting. We summarize the results below. Note for the purpose of this research the term “text messaging” includes SMS and messages sent via an instant messaging app, such as WhatsApp.
Have You Ever Had a Fight or Argument Over Text Message?
|Have you ever had a fight or argument over text message?
|79.61% / 847
|20.39% / 217
|*Total Respondents: 1,064
Note: SellCell collated the results for data question based on the responses from Question 1, below.
- 79.61% of people stated that they have engaged in fexting, arguing via text message with another person.
- 20.39% of respondents, therefore, have never had an argument over text message.
Respondents were then asked a series of further questions relating to the arguments they have over text message.
Question 1: Have you ever had a fight or argument over text message with any of these people? (Select any that apply)
|Have you ever had a fight or argument over text message with any of these people? (Select any that apply)
|Current or Ex Romantic Partner (e.g. husband, wife, fiance, partner)
|47.56% / 506
|21.90% / 233
|26.22% / 279
|27.63% / 294
|36.56% / 389
|14.47% / 154
|4.79% / 51
|None of the above
|20.39% / 217
|*Total Respondents: 1,064
- As we can see from the data above, 47.56% of people argue with their current or ex romantic partner more than anyone else.
- Respondents’ friends are the second most-popular people with whom 36.56% of them will argue via text.
- 27.63% of people have argued with their siblings via text, while 26.22% will fext with their parents.
- Their children account for 21.90% of people that respondents had fexted with.
- 14.47% of people argue with work colleagues over text message.
Note that SellCell invited respondents to select any of the answers that apply. It is therefore highly likely that respondents who do argue via text do so with multiple people, not just one person.
Question 2: Why have you had an argument over text message rather than resolving things by speaking to them? (Select any that apply)
|Why have you had an argument over text message rather than resolving things by speaking to them? (Select any that apply)
|Very easy to impulsively react on my phone when I am angry
|36.85% / 311
|It is quicker to text to make my point and I can’t be bothered to call or meet up
|38.74% / 327
|I can carefully consider what I am going to write so would rather send message
|48.58% / 410
|To respond to a nasty message someone has sent me
|32.58% / 275
|I feel braver arguing over text than speaking to someone
|20.73% / 175
|It is easier to hide behind my phone than speak to anyone
|12.32% / 104
|*Total Respondents: 844
- The data above shows that the main reason 48.58% of people who engage in text arguing do so because it allows them time to reflect on what to say before they reply.
- 38.74% of people prefer the convenience of fexting, stating it is quicker to make their point, or they can’t be bothered to meet up and square the issue off.
- Reacting impulsively on their phone when they are angry is why 36.85% of respondents say they have argued over text.
- 32.58% of respondents argue via text in order to respond to a nasty message from someone else.
- 20.73% of people state they fext with other people because it makes them feel braver than if they had to do it in person.
- Of those who responded, 12.32% say they argue via text because it is easier to hide behind their phone than speak to someone.
As with Question 1, SellCell invited respondents to select multiple answers. This means that people may well engage in fexting for a number of reasons. Those reasons may differ depending on the person they are text arguing with at the time, too.
Question 3: Has having an argument over text damaged or negatively impacted your relationships?
|Has having an argument over text damaged or negatively impacted your relationships?
|59.83% / 505
|40.17% / 339
|*Total Respondents: 844
- Of the 844 people who responded to this question, 59.83% sadly say that having arguments over text has damaged their relationship.
- This means that 40.17% don’t feel that fexting has had a negative impact upon their relationship. However, this could be because people who do fext might not see it as a bad thing and therefore it doesn’t affect their relationships, from their point of view.
Question 4: Does arguing via text message prolong your argument or does it shorten the time it takes to resolve your issue?
|Does arguing over text message prolong your argument or does it shorten the time it takes to resolve your issue?
|Prolongs the argument
|59.72% / 504
|Resolves the argument faster
|40.28% / 340
|*Total Respondents: 844
- When asked whether arguing via text prolongs the exchange or shortens the argument, 59.72% of people state it makes the argument last longer.
- 40.28% said it resolves the argument faster if they conduct the discussion via text messages. This would make particular sense if the same respondents fext because they can think about how to reply. They can potentially reach a resolution quicker and easier after considering their responses.
Question 5: When someone sends you a nasty text message, how long does it take you to respond to it?
|When someone sends you a nasty text message, how long does it take you to respond to it?
|No more than 30 seconds
|9.73% / 82
|30 seconds – to 1 minute
|19.81% / 167
|1- 4 minutes
|30.37% / 256
|5 minutes or more
|24.79% / 209
|A couple of hours
|15.30% / 129
|*Total Respondents: 843
- The average time it takes people to respond to a nasty text message is between one and four minutes. 30.37% of respondents take this long to reply.
- 24.79% of people will take five minutes or more to respond to a nasty message.
- A reactionary 9.73% of people will respond to a nasty message within 30 seconds of receiving it. 19.81% take between 30 seconds and a minute.
- 15.30% don’t respond for several hours. This could be because they want to take time to think about the most appropriate response to the nasty message.
Arguing via Text: What the Experts Say
SellCell spoke to Alex Honigman, licensed Clinical Social Worker and relationship expert from Wit & Reason. The mental health expert and relationship therapist had the following to say about arguing over text…
One of the biggest contributors to argument and conflict between others is ineffective communication. Where we may feel that text would be an appropriate way to gather our thoughts, they lack the nuances and subtleties of face-to-face interactions or even phone calls. Without vocal tone, facial expressions, or body language, the intended emotions or context behind the message is frequently misinterpreted. When you consider it, sending conflict related feelings and thoughts via text is almost always a blindside leading the recipient to defensiveness. The lag in text communication is also problematic it doesn’t always allow for immediate clarification or real-time dialogue, leading to misunderstandings or prolonged back-and-forth exchanges. Watching those bubbles, dots, or read receipts tends to drive us into anxious and impulsive reactions.Alex Honigman, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and relationship expert from Wit & Reason.
Six Tips to Avoid Arguing via Text
We have heard what the experts have to say. Fexting is as toxic as any other smartphone/relationship based behaviour. We have seen this in SellCell’s smartphone addiction survey, with 71% of people admitting they spend more time with their phone than they do with their partner. Likewise, SellCell has highlighted how phubbing (phone snubbing) is set to become the biggest divorce trend of 2024, and we can see why. Not only are we bad at communicating with each other in general; we are now turning to our phone as a vehicle for conflict resolution. The experts say it themselves; this doesn’t work.
Here are some tips to help you avoid entering a fexting war with another person.
1. Resolve Your Dispute Face-to-Face
As Alex Honigman states, you cannot always appreciate facial cues and emotional signals if you are a text tennis arguer. Instead, providing that it is safe to conduct a face to face meeting, try and resolve conflict in person. If you need to, take an impartial arbitrator with you who can ensure a two-sided conversation and can calm the situation down if it gets heated. If you’re going to play verbal tennis with each other, try taking a tennis ball with you and take turns to hold it while you speak. Only the person in possession of the tennis ball (or other object) is allowed to talk. This could help ensure a fair discussion where both sides are heard.
2. Don’t Reply…
It may sound very obvious, but avoid replying to the message. This is by far the easiest way to avoid an altercation altogether. If you don’t reply, then there won’t be any argument at all. If you can do so via your app of choice, consider muting the conversation to avoid having notifications pop up should the person want to send more messages. Remove their ability to goad you into a texting fight.
3. …Or Don’t Send the Message
Likewise, if you are about to start an argument via text message, then consider this. Actually writing your feelings down can be an excellent way to help you process them internally. This might help you realise it is simply not worth an argument. Type what you want to say out in the notes app on your phone. Then, once you have thought about what you have written, and how it might look to the recipient, you can delete it. Doing it outside of your messaging app means there is no “send” button to tempt you into starting an argument.
4. Cut the Argument Dead
If you can’t avoid replying, then you could consider responding to cut the conversation short. Replying with “I don’t think it is appropriate to discuss this via text message” is one way you can make your feelings clear. Or take it a step further and insist that you are only happy to discuss the matter in person. This helps you to take control of the situation, as you are making yourself clear that the argument won’t be happening via text message.
5. Don’t Read Too Much Into the Text
As Alex Honigman says above, text messages are completely lacking in any of the cues we take when having a heated discussion in person. You can’t see the person’s face, you generally can’t gauge tone in a text message, and you can’t read their body language. This means you can get the wrong end of the stick entirely if you can’t 100% assess how the sender intended you to interpret the message you have received.
6. Take a Time Out
15.30% of people take a couple of hours or more to respond to a vitriolic text message. This is probably the best approach you can take. So, if you are one of the 9.73% of people who take no longer than 30 seconds to reply, consider pausing for a moment. Do you really need to reply straight away? What will a poorly considered, angry response achieve? Nothing. It certainly won’t make either of you feel any better as the argument devolves into petty or nasty exchanges. Only worse, as you are likely to become even angrier. Instead, put your phone to one side and walk away from it. This gives you time to think and realise that arguing via text is not a good option.
It’s Time to Press Delete on Arguing via Text… For Good
As we can see, arguing via text is a toxic practice and one we should strive to avoid. Sure, the smartphone is a convenient device. Using it to fext with other people, however, is no good for anyone. Just look at what the experts say above.
If you feel like you’re about to be drawn into an argument over text, think about ignoring it entirely, or be the bigger person in the exchange and suggest that your differences are better aired in person, where you can see each other, and hear the tonality in each others voice. Don’t let your smartphone become a tool that intoxicates your relationships.
SellCell surveyed a selection of smartphone owners to ask if they have ever engaged in arguing via text. It asked the 1064 respondents a series of questions to ascertain why they argue over text, who they argue with, whether they find it damages their relationship, and how long it takes them to engage in an argument. SellCell held no personal information during the collection of survey data.