Text messaging has truly revolutionized the way that people communicate: you can now almost instantaneously send a message to a friend or loved one. Surely the revelation of instant messaging has made our global community even more close-knit, but what is the opportunity cost of such convenience? The older generations always complain that millennials’ noses are always buried in their phones. Parents scold their kids for bringing electronic devices to the dinner table; for having social media addictions. Text messaging has drastically changed the way we talk to one another, but it is not an alternative for daily communication.
Growing up, there was a strictly enforced “no phones at the dinner table” policy. My parents believed that as a family, we should be able to engage in discussions and conversations about each other’s days, current events, and politics. My brother, who at the time was your average rebellious teenager, vehemently disagreed with this rule and would go out of his way to break it, using his phone under the table nearly every night.
I realize, years later, that the rule was not just a way for my parents to stroke their egos and give us lectures about respect and courtesy; it taught us life skskillsCommunication is a dying art and one that my parents perhaps unintentionally, helped me refine in one of the simplest ways. Because of that 30-minute window of open-ended discussion, I was better able to articulate myself, express my feelings, and, most surprisingly, generate grammatically correct sentences in daily conversation.
Seeing a genuine smile or laugh is much more satisfying than a winky face or a “lol.” Texting lacks a degree of emotion; or intimacy. The lack of tone and inflection makes messages hard to interpret. There is a disconnect between you and the person you are messaging, which often leads to miscommunication, and can sometimes be the main cause of cyber-bullying.
There’s a big difference between talking to a real-life person and typing t username in a chatroom. Furthermore, texting can affect the way you respond outside of the digital world, too.
An over-eagerness to communicate only by text can cause social anxiety, affect social development, and can make you come off as just plain rude. It’s not a secret that the average American’s attention span has dwindled to a fraction of what it was a century ago. The “Four Minute Men” of the early 1900s were trained to streamline their speeches to keep their audience’s attention for the full speech. Today, the average attention span is something closer to the likes of four seconds.
Texting isn’t all bad, though. It allows people to communicate with people around the world at their discretion. Before I had a cell-cell phone only time I got to talk to my cousins from Texas was on holidays and other rare occasions when the stars aligned and we could afford the time to spend on the phone. Now, it takes a total of around ten seconds to beam my message into outer space and onto my cousins’ phone screens—we can even make a family group chat and include my parents, brothers, and anybody else we please. Texting has made communication more convenient and has made reaching people much easier. It is a more reliable and more-expedient alternative to phone calls and talking.
Technology is improving, and while we must keep up-to-date with our ever-changing world, we should also strive for balance, and ensure it does not negatively influence our lives too much. Integrating new technologies into our daily lives is an important life skill, but so is communication. Using a phone won’t turn you into a mindless, brain-dead zombie-like our parents would like to have us think, but there are clear negative externalities to becoming too invested in text messaging. Texting should not interrupt daily life, it should accompany it; the advancement of technology can make our lives better and easier, but there are requirements of the society that technology will not substitute. Text messaging is not an alternative for daily communication, but a compliment to it.