Instagram is filled with pictures of people’s dinners – but what happens once those dinners are digested? For some reason, those moments never get Snapchatted to your friends…

Here’s the (literally) dirty secret of the modern age, or so our hypothesis goes: everyone checks their email when doing their doo-doo.

Or… is it just us? Are we the only ones who, when we need to get sh*t done, sit on the toilet?

So we did what anyone would do… we ran a survey to find out! We used Survey Monkey Audience to survey 940 people in the United States.

STATISTICS TIME: How many people check email while pooping?

OK, let’s get down to it. We first wanted to check people’s overall smartphone habits in a couple normal lifestyle situations. Also, we didn’t want to start the survey off asking about bathroom habits for fear that it may brown off some respondents.

Do you check your email, social media etc. on your smartphone as soon as you wake up in the morning?

We don’t know about you, but those Tinder swipes aren’t going to be seen if we don’t open it first thing! Of course, we don’t respond first thing, because we aren’t desperate, but that’s not the point. Alas, we digress.

So, what proportion of people in America check their email first thing, before anything else?

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A slight majority of people (55.3%) do something else before looking at their phone. What that activity is, well, we don’t want to speculate, but we bet it’s not advanced calculus.

Do you check your email, social media etc. on your smartphone while having dinner?

We love having dinner. It’s one of our four favourite meals. But, sometimes, you just need to take a break, let the food get cold, and get a picture of that tasty goodness up on Insta. How common is this?

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For all the talk of the family dinner being killed by the internet, we are very happy to see that the vast majority of Americans (70.2%) put their phones away when having dinner. Although, this begs the question – who’s posting all those pictures? #Dinner #LookWhatI’mEating

Do you check your email, social media etc. on your smartphone while using the restroom?

According to statistics, 38.7% of people read emails while pooping.

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But we think up to 61.3% were lying about it. And here’s why.

According to Pew Research, socially undesirable behaviours such as illegal drug use, certain kinds of sexual behaviour, or, presumably, pooping while checking your email, are under-reported (source).

See, if the question is about a positively perceived behaviour, such as saving a cute little fluffy bunny from drowning, people tend to over-report their behaviour. But for something perceived as socially unacceptable, such as using your phone when on the porcelain throne, they’ll under-report.

It’s not that people are being knowingly dishonest. It’s just that they’re unconsciously conforming to social norms. We tried to control for this behaviour by stating in the survey multiple times that the results were 100% anonymous… but, we presume, to limited avail.

What about males versus females?

BREAKING NEWS: males (56.8%) admit to using their phones on the toilet more than females (27.3%). No way, didn’t see that one coming.

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What about different generations?

OK, so we’re a company comprised of Generation X, Millennials, and whatever the next one is. So perhaps we aren’t a great example. Also, we have thick skins, so we never get butthurt by statistics. But, the statistics show this: the younger you are, the greater the probability you’re poop-mailing. Gross.

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Controversy time: do the results differ by political affiliation?

With all the buzz surrounding the impending Presidential election in the US of A, we wondered if smartphone usage practices could be indicative of voting patterns.

So we asked, “Generally speaking, do you usually think of yourself as a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent, or something else?” and cross-tabulated the results:

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The possible reasons for this discrepancy? The mind boggles. We will refrain from commenting and will let you, dear reader, draw your own conclusions from the statistics above. All we know is that the numbers don’t lie…

So: what can we learn from this?

The outcomes of this survey matter, and here’s why.

When you send an email, you’re no longer trying to get people when they’re at their desk, or on their couch, or on their laptop. The time you send stuff out is basically of no consequence – within reason – so just don’t send stuff out at 3am on Saturday night. Otherwise, don’t stress about it.

The statistics above show that people are just as likely to check their email when they first wake up… or when they’re having dinner… or when they’re doing (their) business… so what you shouldn’t focus on is optimising the send time.

Instead, your focus needs to be on sending out better stuff. Which, coincidentally, is exactly what Phrasee’s artificial intelligence technology does. But what do we know.

In summary: the next time you check your email while dropping the kids off at the pool, remember this:

You’re not alone. The vast majority of people do it, or at least lie about not doing it. This is the calling-card of always-on consumerism.

But you can still shake people’s hands with confidence, and here’s why:

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For those interested, here’s a boring explanation about our methodology.

We limited this survey to the United States, because it was £0.34/respondent less expensive. And also, when you’re in the office you’re American, but when in the restroom European. (Get it? Shazam!) All responses were collected on 14th March, 2016.

Our first step was to ensure that our random sample was representative of the American population. We did so by checking some demographics.

The first thing we noticed is that the sample trends towards female over-representation (59% of the sample). We imagine this is because Survey Monkey Audience solicits respondents by offering to donate to a charity upon completion of the survey. According to the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, women across all age, ethnic and socioeconomic groups tend to give more to charity than men (source).

However, this doesn’t invalidate the sample set when we start looking at cross-tabulations. The other demographics (income levels, state of residence, education levels) seem to match up fairly well to standard online polling expectations – younger and older people are under-represented, and above-average income levels are over-represented. This phenomenon is mimicked in online political polling, for example. Unfortunately, this is a limitation of the medium. However, since the survey results were limited to smartphone owners, we don’t believe this inhibits the validity of the results.

We also asked whether or not the respondents own a smartphone. In hindsight, we probably should have used this as a disqualifying question. But, hey, what’s done is done. So there were a few respondents we removed from the survey (the original total was 1000, so we had to cull 60 responses).

So we are confident in the survey responses being broadly representative of the population.

Phew! Enough methodology already, we’re pooped!

We hope you found these statistics interesting. We’re all about using statistics to make email better. When you’re ready to supercharge your subject lines, get in touch.

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  • Great survey! Will cite it in my book. ;)

    • Stu Elmes

      excellent! let us know when we can have a look!