Is texting messaging helping or hurting our ability to communicate?

No, an international “thumb war” craze hasn’t hit America, but text messaging seems to be giving us a workout. This simple form of communication has evolved faster than anyone could have imagined.  Billions of short messages are sent each year, with unbridled growth expected in the future.  Do your thumbs hurt already?

Most of you would probably agree that texting has helped simplify communication.  Sending a short message eliminates the “daunting” task of picking up a phone, dialing a number, and actually vocalizing thoughts.  Text messaging has eliminated the need to interrupt someone’s activity only to ask a simple question or give a reminder.  It’s become a matter of convenience.  You can respond to messages when you have the opportunity, unlike a nagging ring that ends only when you answer the call.

It seems though, that texting has shifted from a secondary method to a primary form of communication.   What started out as a means for relaying statements like “I’ll be home a little late” has become primers like “What are you doing?”

So has text messaging simplified interpersonal communication or is it just a complicated new technology?  The individual has the sole ability to regulate the effects of texting.  People who spend 20 minutes pecking out a sentence-worth of characters on a cell phone probably deserve wasting that time.  Using texts to carry general conversation is just not efficient.

However, you can avoid lengthy phone calls by sending a short “Call me when you have a chance” message.  When it’s necessary to send a long text message, people often resort to “text speak” to speed through verbiage. “Later” become “L8r” and “talk to you later” is shortened to “TTYL.”  Many electronic devices utilize predictive text software that analyzes your input to predict what word you may be spelling.  Responding to the demand for text-friendly phones, manufacturers are rolling out dozens of new models that feature a built-in keyboard. Blackberry, Blackjack, and Palm are among user favorites.

Are you “text-savvy”, or “text-stupid”?  While I am guilty of some of the “text-stupid” activities, the real determinant is if you knowingly allow yourself to fall into this category.  “Text-savvy” people use short messaging to send quick reminders or a short question.  They also use it as a polite form of brief communication, such as in a meeting.

They also understand the importance of quiet time, without feeling the obligation to respond immediately, regardless of a personal inconvenience.  These individuals understand this technology’s role as a supplement to traditional exchange.

“Text-stupid” people type while driving, focusing their attention on figuring out how to add a question mark at the end of a sentence.  They also use texting as a vehicle for ALL communication, eliminating most human contact.  Wireless providers love “text-stupid” people who gawk at their bill each month, wondering why they pay so much for text messaging.

Like many luxuries, text messaging can be friend or foe–it all depends on which category your place it.  Don’t let the technology outsmart the human user, or you’ll let texting control you.

The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of Northwestern State University.  They are solely the opinion of the author. All content © Copyright 2008 Lane Luckie


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