12/18/2013 02:02 EST | Updated 02/17/2014 05:59 EST

Canadians less likely than other mobile users to text holiday greetings: study

TORONTO - Would you dash off a quick text message to wish a friend or family member a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah or Joyous Kwanzaa instead of calling?

Cellphone-toting Canadians appear less likely than their global counterparts to text message home for the holidays, according to the results of an online Ipsos poll of 18,000 people in 24 countries.

Still, 59 per cent of poll respondents said they had done it in the past.

That was actually the lowest percentage among the two-dozen countries involved in the survey and well below the global average of 73 per cent.

Aimee Morrison, an associate professor who researches digital culture at the University of Waterloo, said she thought the numbers would've been much lower, even though she's done some holiday texting herself.

She suggested a couple of reasons people choose to send a short message during the holidays rather than picking up the phone.

"Sometimes people use text messaging as a politeness strategy, you might say, 'I know you're really busy so I just texted you, call me if you get a chance.' The idea that when you make a phone call to someone you are implying that it is worth them stopping whatever they are doing, answering your call and talking to you," Morrison said.

"Other people text as an avoidance strategy — like, I'm going to text this person because if I call she's just going to want to talk to me for 45 minutes about her kids and I kind of want to do what has to get done, but not have it take more than 13 seconds."

Canadian women taking part in the poll were more likely than men to text their friends and family during the holidays. The survey said festive texts were sent by 64 per cent of female respondents versus 54 per cent of men.

The most enthusiastic holidays texters involved in the survey lived in British Columbia and Alberta, where 69 per cent of participants said they favoured digital holiday greetings.

About 89 per cent of the respondents in Sweden, 84 per cent of South Africans, 83 per cent of Russians and 82 per cent of Spaniards and Indonesians had sent their best wishes by text.

"It's interesting that it varies by country to country because it shows you that there are social norms at play there, whether something is the done thing or not the done thing," Morrison said.

About 46 per cent of the Canadians surveyed said they've used Skype, FaceTime or another video conferencing app to communicate with family members, compared to the global average of 42 per cent.

Morrison said she doesn't take offence to communicating digitally instead of by phone over the holidays.

"If you're going to send me a text I'm going to be glad you're thinking of me at the holidays at all," she said.

"People are communicating across so many media channels simultaneously and the phone is really dramatically falling out of favour, particularly as people unplug their landlines. You're probably calling them on their cellphone, you don't know where they are ... they might be in a meeting, the minutes might cost them money, so (calling everyone) is generally not the done thing anymore."

The Ipsos survey was conducted between Oct. 1 and Oct. 15. The polling industry's professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population like traditional telephone polls.