June 08, 2010

Short Text Messages: Illusion over Substance

new janis By Janis Prince Inniss

I have discussed my anti-texting bias in previous posts, but I do recognize that texting can be useful. For example, I taught my mother to text when she was in her late 70s! Recovering from surgery meant to give her a sense of sound, Mum was down to one poorly performing ear. As she prepared to visit family by plane in another state, I realized that she would be virtually deaf upon arrival. My mind filled with worst-case scenarios of family attempting to pick her up at the airport, but being unable to locate her despite repeated calls to her cell phone or airport pages. Mum’s sight is pretty good, however, so I taught her to text a few hours before she departed. That holiday season, she kept me apprised of her activities with several texts per day; I got running commentary on her vacation and she got my responses without any problem .

Although I object to how expensive texting can be, I understand why people might find it useful. Texting allows people to ”say” things when they can’t speak; the advantages of this are obvious and often we are saying things we probably shouldn’t, to people we probably shouldn’t, and at times when we probably should be doing something else. Consider that text messages were allegedly a part of Tiger Woods’ extramarital affairs, are used by teachers who prey on their students sexually, and helped cause the downfall of former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. The consequences of teen sexting have been widely discussed and debated. Less dramatic, but still in the same category of inappropriate use is texting someone while you’re in a meeting or in class.

People text while doing other things, such as watching movies, having conversations, eating, and working. (Note that research on multitasking indicates that the term more properly refers to doing more than one thing poorly.) That’s what one Wal-Mart cashier who texts at work is doing: While customers push their goods up to the cashier, he reads a text. And while I get my credit card out of my purse, swipe, and sign it, he types a text! (I’ve seen this particular cashier do this repeatedly, so I know he wasn’t doing it once in an emergency). People—teens in particular— are even texting and driving, giving rise to increasing numbers of car accidents due to distracted driving. (Oprah Winfrey has been raising awareness to this issue through her “No Phone Zone” campaign.)

About one third of teens send more than 100 texts per day—and this is the primary way that teens communicate (over phone calls, instant messages, emails, face-to-face, and social networking.) Why is texting so popular? Is it because it allows us to seem communicative, even when we really aren’t?

Let me give you a few examples. I have friends and family members who send annual Christmas Day text message blasts to everyone in their address books. It’s great to receive a holiday greeting, of course, but it feels so impersonal. (Is a blast text any less personal than a computer generated greeting card, electronic card, or an annual family newsletter sent to everyone?) A short telephone call, even voice message seems more personal to me than the blast.

Now that Mother’s Day seems to be cause for acknowledgment not only with those who mothered us, but all mothers we know (a post for another time), I have started receiving blast texts wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day; other so-called holidays also bring me blast texts wishing me a Happy Whatever! Given that the text senders and I don’t communicate on a regular basis, I think actual conversations such as “How are the kids?” “And your Mom?” “How are things at school?” would be real—or at least better approximations of—communication. A text message can give the illusion that we are communicating even when we are not.

Ever think about why someone is sending you a text rather than calling or visiting you? I do. Visits are not as convenient (or maybe even appropriate) as other methods of communication. But given that texts are inconvenient to type (at least for some of us) and that there is a 160 character limit, a text message provides a limited form of communication. This makes sense when we remember that we refer to as texts are technically “short message service”. Short message, not full conversation. As one among other modes of communication, texts are fine but if used too often they give the appearance of communication, in a medium that is by nature unable to support a substantive conversation. Texts can’t convey emotion to the extent that a voice or non-verbal cue can, which is why sensitive conversations are not as suitable for this medium. And given that people are often texting while attending to other tasks, how engaged can they really be with the person they are texting or with the people around them?

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Comments

I wonder what your take would be on twitter and the like... I do it even more when I have nothing. It's cheaper than texting and faster too.

I think you've got it wrong about texting. For the vast majority of people, it's not the "primary" form of communication. Most people--myself included--use it to exchange some small talk or make plans while talking on the phone is impossible (for instance, in class, in a restaurant, on a bus or train). If I'm meeting someone in a loud, public place, it's much easier to just text them to say I'm there rather than trying to talk over the din. Those high school students who send 100 texts a day are probably doing it while stuck in boring classes, where talking on the phone or in person obviously isn't an option. Maybe rather than demonizing a form of communication, we should try to give them something more interesting to do.

I think this is really a good show of social change. I mean it use to be that if you needed to communicate you well in a place you couldn't talk you would have to excuse yourself and make a phone call, but now you can just send a quick text message and you'll be set. I think this really just shows how our communication changes as we get new technology.

I do not know any young people who do not know what the text messaging is. For me, as an introvert person, I prefer to use text message instead of talk on the phone. I feel comfortable texting because I get to think what I want to say before I send text message. But I think if I get hooked to texting, it is a dangerous sign that I should stop it. As young people are getting hooked to texting, their verbal skills depreciate as many of them prefer to use texting. The videos in the article talked about how dangerous it is to text while driving. One girls had to get a surgery on her arm because she text too much. I personally prefer texting over calling, however, if texting interferes with studying and personally relationship with friends and parents, I do not think it is the best way to communicate with other people.
I think text messaging is part of our part of materialistic culture in today’s world. As we learned, the material culture is a physical or technological aspect of daily lives. As the technology is growing rapidly, majority people have their own cell phone and use text messaging as their main communication tool. In these days, text messaging is same as talking to somebody. Text messaging has become a mandatory communication tool. However, even though it can be used in a positive ways, if we over use it, it can harm us.

Are we engaging in ageism in defense or offense when it comes to texting? These are the same arguments I used to hear against e-mail. As forms of communication become ubiquitous, acceptance and social conventions for their use form. It is important to embrace tools of communication as they may prove to be useful in ways that may not be readily apparent now. However, communication entails respect and mutual consideration. Last I checked that was the definition of communication.

Texting is a social norm. Everyone I know has unlimited texting, and many people take advantage of that. Just like any other social norm, texting can lead to deviance. Texting makes it easier to talk to people you shouldn't be talking to, and it makes it easier to say things that you normally wouldn't. Kwame Kilpatrick was texting someone he shouldn't have, and that led to his downfall.

I agree 100% with what you are saying. According to the concept of causation, people are texting so much so that they can get more done in a single day. This causes people to manifest shallow relationships. There is definitely a reason people text more than call or visit. When I am texting, I am trying to get a point across without taking time to slow down and have a real conversation. Shallow relationships in turn create a false sense of closeness.

Texting is common for the new generation. As mentioned in the article, it makes it easier to talk to people about certain things when you don’t feel like facing them. It’s easier to text someone and tell them you’ll be late then calling. And when that person doesn’t answer, they try calling you back and you can’t answer and you can end up playing a game of cat and mouse for hours. Texting also makes it easier to talk when you shouldn’t.
Teens’ texting in class causes them to be distracted from their education. If you’re texting all the time, you’re losing social skills. Texting takes away the ability to understand nonverbal clues. When you can’t see a person’s or hear their voice, you don’t really know what the reader of your message understands. Things are easily taken the wrong way when in writing.

The short text is killing the english written language , thus fore killing the spoken language , and if short text has context before it, its ease figured out.!!!

I personally believe that texting is hindering inter-family communications. Without the former needed updates and communication, families are starting to have less and less contact. This is ultimately causing a large impact on children. This can easily be seen in the teenage generation who are becoming even more distant from their own parents.

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