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Is text messaging a good thing?

Go to any shopping mall and watch young people in action, and you’ll quickly notice that one of their favorite activities is sending and receiving text messages. It has become an indispensable part of the way they communicate.

A few questions come to mind:

  • Are there only a handful of us left who do not text message?
  • Why do people text?
  • How is it affecting relationships?

I decided to do a bit of research and talk to some folks. This is what I discovered.

Who’s texting and why

Most texters are young, ranging in age from preteen to late 20s. For teenagers, text messaging is a way to check in with parents, stay in touch with peers, flirt, tease, set up dates and appointments, gossip, and even work through disagreements. Because it requires a proficiency in a special, shortcut language, it has the additional advantage of being an “in-group” activity.

For middle and high school students, texting has taken the place of passing notes back and forth—so, same old goal, just a different technology.

Recently, Disney Mobile conducted a survey of more than 1,500 cell phone users 10 to 17 years old and found that nearly half of the participants (44 percent) use text messages as their main form of communication. Their texting includes sending messages while at the movies (52 percent) and the dinner table (28 percent), using messages to ask people out on a date (14 percent) or to even break up with someone (7 percent). Twenty-six percent say they check for a text message or send one within 10 minutes of waking up in the morning.

Twentysomethings

Twentysomethings in college or the workforce use texting to get information about appointment times, meeting places, and so forth, without having to wade through the small talk that face-to-face or phone contacts demand. They view it as less troublesome and more efficient than emailing. One person said she schedules phone appointments by texting, thus cutting out one phone call.

A foreign student stays in touch with his friends via texting to avoid running up the bills that accompany long phone conversations.

Some folks said there is a kind of “fun-forbidden” quality about receiving and sending text messages during class or during a meeting at work. One young woman described it as “deliciously surreptitious” and admitted she does it in church.

Older generation Yers and baby boomers

Those in their late 30s and early 40s have a somewhat different take on the subject. They see it as an “errand or chore facilitator.” One mother of three said she texts her husband when he’s on his way home to “get some diapers” or “don’t forget the potatoes.”

Others see it as a viable alternative to a phone call when a loud, noisy environment makes it difficult to talk.

They did not, however, see it as a way to make friends or to flirt, although one man did say he thinks flirtatious texting could be “wildly titillating” during early courtship.

It appears that most folks over 40 either use texting sparingly—to confirm appointments, for example—or not at all.

Effects on friendship

The February 25, 2007, issue of Parade magazine revealed that middle and high school students are frequently using text messaging (along with instant messaging, email, and the Internet) against each other. The anonymity of the Web provides “cyberbullies” with the perfect cover to spread their aggression. The site wiredsafety.org reported that 90 percent of middle school students have had their feelings hurt online.

The Parade article did mention that many children use cyberspace to help them in social situations, communicating better online than in person.

A 24-year-old woman commented that she and her boy friend use texting to resolve arguments more easily. She said they can weed out the angry voice quality that usually escalates the problem.

When I shared this with a shrink friend of mine, she responded, “It is a sad commentary about the effects of technology that texting has replaced the good, old-fashioned face-to-face working through of differences. The big question is, will we eventually be able to make love via texting? Do we have to learn how to moan via thumbed messages? Good Lord, doesn’t it seem like that’s where it’s heading?”

Some I spoke to think that texting can actually cause arguments, not sidestep them. They believe that texting, like brief handwritten notes, can sometimes come across as harsh and abrupt since they lack those “gussying up” phrases that conversations allow.

My advice                                                                                                                                

I suggest that texting, like emailing, be used as a tool only, not as a substitute for face-to-face interaction. Otherwise, our emotional muscles will either atrophy or never develop in the first place, leaving us ill equipped to relate on a personal level—at home and at work.

If we habitually conduct our lives from a two-dimensional place instead of a three-dimensional one, we can’t hone our coping skills to handle challenges and, more importantly, we rob ourselves of the joys of intimacy.

Text messaging looks like it’s here to stay. Are we raising a new generation of people who will lack the skills to connect in person?

Where do you stand on texting? I’d love to hear from you.

Do you have a question or comment for me? Feel free to post it by clicking on the comments link below.

Comments

Comment from Bim
Time: September 12, 2007, 7:22 pm

I’m over 50 and love to text a short, concise message. I do not enjoy talking on the phone and worry sometimes about “bothering” the other person or catching them at a wrong time. With text messaging I can send the message and rest assured that they will read it when it is convenient for them. In fact I just wrote one to a person that doesn’t always check her e-mail that said……check ur e-mail….
My son doesn’t agree with me but I think it is kinda fun to think of short ways of saying things 2. He says I abbreviate 2 much. oh, well, let me alone 2 text and hav sum fun.

Comment from Laura
Time: September 13, 2007, 11:45 am

I don’t text on a daily basis, mainlybeause it isn’t easy for me. It is easier to just dial the phone and leave a message or talk. I do text when I haven’t spoke to someone in a long while and really don’t have time to talk for an hour to “catch up” so I will text “thinking of you, we have to get coffee soon” or “happy bday, talk soon, Laura”. But that is about it. If I have something to say, I’ll call ya and if you don’t answer I will leave ya a message!!

Comment from J.McB
Time: September 27, 2007, 1:18 pm

My opinion is that I virtually REFUSE to text. If I am in a meeting and my wife calls, then sends a text to let me know something important, that is one thing, but I have a developed sense of people and personalities due to, and predicated on, face to face or, at the very least, phone/voice contact.
I simply MUST have some baseline for the interaction. That is the verbal inflections, tone, body positioning, look in the eyes etc. in order to feel confident in and trusting of messages that are being sent to me.

Comment from Kathi
Time: November 13, 2007, 10:48 am

I dont text as much as I used to, but I liked to just say “love you” “thinking of you” to someone, especially if I dont have a lot of time to have a whole conversation. Just to stay in touch, but I try to not use it as form of communication.

Comment from Jenna
Time: December 17, 2007, 2:11 pm

I’m a believer in texting because talking on the phone isn’t my favorite thing to do. If I just have a question for a friend, I text it if I don’t have the time to call. I have a friend that will turn a 1 minute conversation into a 5 minute phone call. It’s impossible to get off the phone with her most of the time, so I text instead. It’s just easier, quicker, straight to the point, and something that is hip for us youngsters.

Comment from Patrick
Time: January 29, 2009, 10:57 am

As I am 50+ year young, texting is a technique and means of commuication that I have not yet warmed up to. However, as I have younger aged clients, friends and family who do utilize this method, I am at times forced to use it as well. So, for a quick means of communication, I am OK with it. However, I am concerned when I witness young people who, while in the company of a gathering of family, friends, etc., are so completely disengaged from that physical gathering, because they are completely engaged with their cyber friends via texting. I fear that they (the youngest texters) feel empowered and more self important when they text, but more often than not, are excessively shy when engaging with others face to face… Hopefully they will grow out of that part of their use of this “new” technology, and eventually use it solely as an additional means of quick communication, vs. their MAIN manner of doing so…

Comment from tabbitha ann cartter bitchez
Time: February 10, 2012, 10:06 am

ha i do text alot over 9000 txts a moth

Comment from James
Time: June 11, 2012, 10:01 pm

I’m a college level English instructor who has only one point to make. It saddens me to see the effects of the texting habit in my particular scenario: simply, a handed-in paper written by one unaware of what works where and when and what does not. Since standard English is the ‘standard’ of the class (and college/adult level writing in general), the paper receives the grade it deserves.

Here is an easy analogy to help in understanding. There are two things to know if you participate in a karaoke party: the songs you can sing, and those you can’t. Keep this in mind as you contemplate your next communications event, either written or spoken.

Comment from Dr. Carducci
Time: May 8, 2013, 9:40 pm

It’s fine by me. Will you send me the url for your site?

Comment from Dr. Carducci
Time: July 15, 2013, 10:36 pm

I’m glad you like it.

Comment from Dr. Carducci
Time: July 15, 2013, 10:40 pm

Hi
Thanks for the feedback. I’ve been remiss about writing for the blog. Have gotten involved with other projects. If you like my writing, check out my book (see Playitbyearbook.com). I’m proud of it and there are things in it I believe you’ll enjoy. Ron

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