A few years ago, I spent my summer “nanny-ing” for two children ages four and six. On my first day, their mother pointed out a list of emergency contact numbers pinned to the fridge. As my eyes traveled down the detailed list, past Grandma Joan (House) and Dad (Office), I noticed a final note at the bottom that read, “If the kids need me, have them send me a text. Thnx!”
Much to my surprise, their mother had not made a mistake; her children were texting before they even knew how to effectively write.
Is this the new norm? Has traditional communication become a thing of the past? According to an article published on CNN.com, Americans ages 18 to 29 send and receive an average of nearly 88 text messages per day, compared to 17 phone calls.
As a proud member of the digital generation, I have seen firsthand how texting has changed the way we interact—what we say and how we say it is driven by this new method of communication. While I can’t predict the future, I can recount how texting has affected us thus far:
Every day I receive texts riddled with countless run-on sentences, misplaced punctuation marks and spelling errors, all of which are expected and, of course, forgiven. But why should they be? The way we present ourselves via text should be important. People know they are using poor grammar when they text, but the question remains whether or not it will affect our overall ability to write and communicate.
In college I volunteered as a writing center tutor, teaching younger students how to prepare and draft research papers. One of the most common mistakes students made was writing as if they were speaking. I found their essays to be full of unnecessary fillers and poor sentence structure. Some students even wrote papers using the second person point of view. Although researchers cannot specifically attribute poor grammar skills to the texting trend, I beg to differ. The quick back-and-forth of mobile communication has jeopardized our ability to convey thoughts and meaning. To say future texters are doomed is an understatement.
Head in the iClouds
We’ve all been there: the world is happening all around you and yet you still find yourself glued to your phone. The sheer capacity of information available on a smartphone can tempt even the most skeptical user. Unfortunately, this constant need to be dialed in may be affecting the way we connect with others.
According to an article published on Newsday.com, some communication experts feel that we are losing our ability to engage in face-to-face conversations, causing personal and professional relationships to suffer. In short, meaningful conversations are lost because of increased texting.
The article goes on to explain that children are especially affected by the technology craze, and teachers are finding that students have trouble making eye contact or even responding to questions. This new wave of tech-savvy tots are missing out on creating crucial social development skills.
Text-etiquette: the unwritten codes of conduct
Pop quiz! You text your roommate and kindly ask her to move her car in the driveway. She responds “K.” Your roommate is most likely feeling:
a.) Excited to complete the task
b.) Indifferent about the situation
c.) Annoyed you woke her up
If you chose answer “C” you are correct! Over time, texting has developed its own language characterized by emojis and unnecessary exclamation points. This method of communicating forces us to show the recipient how we feel rather than just saying it.
For example, if your roommate had responded with “Okay!” she is most likely fine with your request. One letter responses coupled with a harsh period conveys the message “back-off!” So, why don’t we just tell them that?
While these rules still remain unwritten, true texters innately know the appropriate response. Texting lingo gives us the freedom to speak cryptically and still get a point across.
Although texting seems to have caused us more harm than good, there are some benefits to being in constant contact with –our contacts.
First, the convenience factor is a major plus. Cell phone users can quickly and discretely have conversations with each other. Texting also gives us the opportunity to truly think before we respond (although many do not), unlike verbal communication which is more instantaneous. Finally, texting gives us instant satisfaction and we feel more secure when connected to others.
The hard truth is that technology continues to evolve and society will adapt accordingly. This world of texting is relatively new and there is no telling how it will affect us later on.
So G2G, TTYL and BRB—because texting isn’t going anywhere.