Texting is certainly not going anywhere, as the quickest and most convenient way to communicate, especially for moms like me who struggle to find an occasion to talk on the phone without someone screaming in the background. But let’s not kid ourselves into thinking texting is doing us any favors.
1. We’re often left wondering.
It’s the curse of all written language: we can’t convey tone. So when a text pops up that seems suspiciously brief or devoid of the customary abundance of exclamation points and smiley face emojis, we start to wonder: Is something wrong?
When we speak to each other face-to-face or even by phone, we can detect a shift in someone’s body language or tone of voice and reason that something’s not right. But with texting, when we’re just not sure, tensions can thrive.
2. We make a mockery of our language.
Remember when texting meant you had to press a numerical button the appropriate number of times to scroll through all the possible letters associated with that key just to get to the one you needed? (I’m exhausted just describing that!) Well, the hassle led to shortcuts that are actually undermining our language.
Take all those stupid abbreviations that have become part of our lexicon: LOL, BRB, 2 (instead of “to”), U (instead of “you”)… They’ve actually become acceptable alternatives outside of texting. And how about the complete loss of grammar? Comma usage is an antiquated relic, and many of us only bother to sprinkle periods and exclamation points throughout our texts for effect.
Don’t believe me that all this texting is affecting our language? Talk to any teacher about his or her students’ writing, and they’ll tell you how many kids can’t grasp the complexity of the English language anymore. And it’s not just kids. How often do you see a post on Facebook or a comment on a blog completely devoid of capitalization and punctuation? Don’t even get me started on proofreading!
Whether we realize it or not, our written word in any form leaves an impression, and the language of texting doesn’t imply intellect or effort.
3. We confuse texts with emails.
Of course texting is convenient, especially since texts garner more immediate attention than emails. But in some cases, an email would make a better, more considerate choice:
- If the text is sufficiently wordy that you have to scroll down to read it in its entirety, it should probably be an email.
- If the text contains a question that requires thought or research in order to produce a reply, it should probably be an email.
- If the text is not pressing and it’s more than just a simple hello or a quick yes-or-no question, it should probably be an email.
4. We’re too distracted to keep pace.
Texting is supposed to be an immediate exchange. But how often do we receive a message only to be pulled away by something more pressing and forget about it completely? Then, we realize days later that we never replied. Oops. No better way to show someone they’re a priority, right?
Besides the distractions real life provides, we’re constantly bombarded by social media obligations and overflowing email inboxes that make keeping up with texts a balancing act.
5. We send a text when we know we should pick up the phone.
Texting has become this copout—a way of avoiding uncomfortable situations. There are some times when you have to say something you know will be upsetting to a friend, and in order to avoid the discomfort of hearing their response, you let your thumbs do the talking.
Sure, you’ve saved yourself an awkward situation, but you’ve also belittled the exchange. If you know what you’ve got to say may not go over well, then you also know it’s important to your friend. Sometimes a text is just too casual and the act of picking up the phone and letting someone hear your voice lets them know they’re worth your effort, which can count for a lot!
6. We’re losing touch with what being together looks like.
The belief that staring at our screens constitutes a dialogue has led to a depressing scenario we’re all familiar with: the couple sitting across from each other at a restaurant, completely ignoring each other. We’re becoming a culture that prioritizes the digital equivalent of life to the real thing—the Facebook friend’s status update to a conversation with the person sitting right in front of us. We’re losing our social skills, our manners: how to make eye contact, how to engage in the moment, how to put down our phones. And it’s just plain sad.
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I’m certainly not writing this with the intention of pointing fingers, because God knows I’m as guilty of these faults as the next person. But I think recognizing the effect texting can have on our relationships might encourage us to pick up the phone to actually talk on it a little more often, or use our texting to schedule face-to-face contact every once in a while, especially when someone or something really matters.