The Problem Today with Text Messaging

Conversation, it used to consist of verbal and visual communication. However, the new millennium has brought a new evolution in communication – the text message.

Text messaging has taken over how we communicate.

The first text message was sent in December of 1992, and since then how we communicate has changed rapidly. In our world a text is often considered acceptable communication with no interpersonal skills needed. We’re statistically more likely to order a pizza if there is an online ordering system (I am unabashedly guilty of ordering takeout via electronic means. Hey! No one can judge my lo mein intake that way).

The average adult sends about 100 electronic missives a day, whether it is email, text, or through messenger programs. It is immediate gratification, the pings of messages sometimes seconds, or minutes apart. These messages are not like letters of bygone eras, these messages are limited in length and depth, the script is impersonal because it is computer generated, and an emoji does little to display a personality. They don’t contain our innermost thoughts. Texts are easily dismissed, ignored and are often sent without contemplation or hesitation. 93% of communication is nonverbal; tone, inflection, and body language all contribute to the narrative.  A meme can only help you so much. A mere 7% of what is communicated is what is actually said.

Despite its shortcomings, text messages are exchanged daily.

We wake up in the morning with the glow of cellphone light and begin rapidly exchanging texts with others. Whether they be ‘good morning’ texts or ‘will you grab the children on the way home?’ They convey a message in words, but the tone is lost. ‘Will you grab our children on the way home?’ can be read a number of different ways, with only a slight difference in inflection. It could be a passive aggressive plea from a parent, or it could be a simple request.

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There is simply no context to the question. The conversation never had a starting and ending point as it would in a face-to-face conversation. If there is no answer, there is no answer; one will have to change platforms to receive an answer. There are no context clues as would be apparent in a phone call. You cannot differentiate if the recipient is busy, or out of service area. The text has trained us to expect an immediate response; instant gratification despite situations outside of the mobile device.

Text messaging is affecting adolescents and young adults.

Adolescents and young adults are attached to their mobile phones, they are never alone- constantly exchanging shallow dialogue with their peers and family members. However, according to a study conducted in 2010 by the American Public Health Association, a teenager who exchanges upwards of 120 texts daily has higher risks of drug, alcohol and tobacco usage; in addition to an increase of violent and sexual behaviors. They display anxiety with face-to-face communication, and avoid social situations. Their grammar skills are deteriorating as LOL’s and TTYL’s replace genuine laughs and farewell sentiments. Spelling is unimportant as it is auto-corrected or situationally acceptable, misspellings have become commonplace. Periods express mean feelings or finality instead of proper grammatical ending to a sentence. The rules which apply to verbal and truly written communication don’t apply here.

A text message does have its convenience points.

It is a way to effortfully and quickly communicate with another person, no matter the distance or time difference(s) between you and the recipient. The communication is visual and silent. There’s no sound involved should you physically be otherwise occupied. Moreover, it is great for making quick plans, communicating a microburst of knowledge or banter. The original text limitation of 160 characters was determined in 1993 as the average of a simple sentence. As such, it was never meant to be a sole source of communication- a fact that is slowly becoming obscure as we (as a culture) start integrating ourselves deeper and deeper into our electronic devices; slowly becoming technology zombies, a slave to the 4G and wifi connection.

-Guest Blogger, Emma Beazley

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