August 9, 2012

Textual Assault

Cpl. Sean Dennison
Desert Warrior Staff

Texting is supposed to be an instantaneous method of communication through a mix of actual words, abbreviations and emoticons meant for quick transmission-response protocol. It can also delay and outright ruin previously made plans.  I’m guilty as anyone of using my thumbs instead of my voice to talk to people, thereby turning what could’ve been a minute-long conversation into an hour-long ordeal. It’s one of those love-to-hate-it relationships (yes, you have a relationship with texting) because it’s easy to blame a breakdown of face-to-face social interaction on a device that’s there rather than the person who uses it.

But I also wonder: how texting really causing a deterioration of personal interaction? And by personal I mean is it unthreading the emotional bond that makes us, well, us?

Short Message Service language (I’m going to arbitrarily claim there were five percent of you who already knew what that was), the visual syntax used in text messaging, particularly emoticons, is making appearances in student essays. There are even teacher’s guides on how to teach with emoticons, which implies a less intensive social interaction between the teachers and students.

This is a global issue. In the US and UK, at least, texting is a person’s main way of communicating next to in-person. Personal calls fall in the middle range, with hand-written letters, once considered an art form as much as a way of correspondence, ranks in dead last.

But at what point does communication become, and this’ll sound strange, a cause for concern?

In an April 2012 press release, the National Communication Association warned college students to not text during class, claiming, “college students who frequently text message during class have difficulty staying attentive to classroom lectures and consequently risk having poor learning outcomes.”

This is more of an individual problem than anything, but it still goes to show how texting can be detrimental to your intellectual development.

More and more, kids and teenagers are choosing texting over physical meetings. I can’t stress enough how dangerous this can be. Am I overreacting? Maybe, but in ten years when those kids grow up and they find it harder to respond to emotional and social cues I’ll have myself a good laugh.

I’m also worried about is the implications of important texts. When a friend texts you their mom had a stroke, did that really necessitate a text? If a close friend of mine was going through a period of such emotional turmoil because her mom had a freaking stroke, I’d rather be informed about it immediately or as soon as possible rather than through a random text. It’s like it’s cool to send it because we know they’ll get it eventually.

Texting is, absolutely important. I wouldn’t even call that a matter of opinion. Anything that allows us to convey information and emotion at a moment’s notice when a call is unfeasible is important. Friendships have been cultivated across oceans, military operations have succeeded and lives have been saved thanks to this method.

What I’m getting at is there are just some things that call for a phone call. Why spend several minutes texting back and forth when you can just answer a single question in a few seconds (real answer: because humanity, that’s why)?

Even letter writing seems novel these days. It’s understandable, why physically handcopy hundreds of words what you could say in less than 100 characters? I still feel there’s warmth in taking the time out of your day to write something to somebody. I’d feel more comfortable if my life were threatened with a handwritten letter, even one of those old-timey cut-and-paste ones, than from a text. Even e-mails, once decried as the end of personal rapport, seem to carry heavier personality than a text.

I cannot recommend enough you speak face-to-face with somebody than text them, if possible. Go visit them. All this progress we’ve made, shouldn’t that help us free up more our time to relax and build relationships rather than create pockets of time we feel the need to fill up with trite discourse.

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