For over 15 years I have had a cellphone with me, and managed to keep the same number the entire time. I have always kept up with the changes in the technology. I got an iPhone on the first day, and have miraculously succeeded in maintaining my unlimited data plan. So much has happened, so much has changed. My phone has more processing power that most of my early computers put together. (Some of those computers that I owned as far back as 1983.)
Even though I could probably control my known universe with my phone, the main things I use it for are email, talking, listening to music, and looking stuff up on the web. Kinda boring - what can I say? I'm old.
In addition, I text with my iPhone every day. Multiple times. It is one of the primary ways I communicate with my EC, FOMLs, employees, friends, etc. It is quick, and efficient.
And it frightens me. And I still dislike it.
I love technology. I am adequately geeked-out enough to know what is out there, and how to use it - and none of the technology has bothered me as much as the "Texting Devolution." No, I didn't make a mistake. I don't see it as a "Texting Revolution," or as a "Texting Evolution." I see it as a devolution, a societal step backwards that will eventually come back to bite us.
It isn't just because I am not as quick with my thumbs, like my kids are, or because auto-correct is controlled by the adversary. I have bigger issues with texting, much bigger. I guess you would call them societal issues.
Everyone walks around with their heads bowed, definitely not in prayer, but looking at their phones. Sometimes I am tempted to yell "Look out!" just to watch them freak out. Remember the talk by Elder Cook last conference when he was in the elevator with President Monson? I think President Monson was more tactful when he told Elder Carl B. Cook that "it is better to look up!" (link)
It IS better to look up. Especially when you are...
Walking through a crowd.
Talking to a person that is right in front of you.
In class - school, Sunday School, ANY classroom setting.
In the old days, a woman could say to a man "Hey buddy, eyes up here!" and it wasn't that the man was reading a text.
It is better to look up. It is safer, it is less rude.
Go ahead - roll your eyes and tell me that it isn't a big deal. You can think that, but you would be wrong. We are turning into a generation of rude, self-absorbed people who lack even the most basic standards of polite face-to-face communication. I've lived through it. I had a Walkman in 1980. I have the white earbuds. I know that if I go grocery shopping with my earbuds in, then people are less likely to bother me. And I am part of the problem.
The difference is, I acquired this technology AFTER having developed the ability to speak with people - in person, and on the phone. Today's youth are so immersed in technology that many never develop good communication skills. Sure, they can abbreviate like nobody's business, and can summarize their thoughts in 140 characters or less, but there IS a decline. But I'm not just picking on kids - those of us who are from the pre-tech generation can lose those communication skills, and develop the same rude behaviors as the next generation. Some of the rudest texters I know are adults.
Texting diminishes both communicative skills and the quality of the communication. They are two different things. I have spent most of my life raising, or serving with, youth, and have witnessed the decline in communication skills. And it isn't just me - the "experts" agree. I know lots of people who would prefer to text than to talk on the phone. My question "Why don't you just call and talk to them?" is just met with a blank stare and shrugged shoulders - "I don't need to call - this is fine."
I see the decline in things like decreased eye contact, and a desire to avoid actual conversation. I watch as youth struggle when they have to share a thought in front of a group, or answer questions. And this is IN the Church. I can't imagine how difficult it would be to develop those skills without the leadership and speaking opportunities the Church affords our youth. I also think the quality of our verbal storytelling is on the decline - unless it is written down and read. These are our future missionaries.
Texting can be incredibly rude. Here is a quick test to see if you are being rude while texting:
• If words are either coming out of your mouth, or going into your ears while you are typing, or reading a text, then you are being rude.
The quality of communication suffers as well. There is no nuance in texting, there is no tone, no body language, no eye-contact. So much of our communication is non-verbal - and it is entirely missing in texting - with the exception of an occasional emoticon. :) ;) :0 etc. No wonder there is so much mis-communcation. And the one thing our teenage girls surely need is yet another way to misunderstand each other.
The most striking example I experienced was when I was serving as a bishop. There was a couple that was going through difficult times. (This has been approved by them) They were arguing a lot. One occasion the wife had told me that they had a particularly bad fight via text, and wanted to show me the text thread. I declined, but I asked why they were fighting via text. She explained that since he was locked in the bedroom, and she was in the kitchen, it was the only way they could fight and not wake the kids. Text battles in the same house?
Another problem with texting, and Tweeting, and FBing is the irretrievability of the message. Once you hit send, it's sent. Sure you can go back and delete, but it is usually too late. It is too easy to respond hastily. Without the person standing in front of us, looking us in the eye, or the person's voice in our ear, it is much easier to spout off. I know. I am an expert in this arena.
Do you ever get novella-sized texts? My EC does. When I do, I usually call the person back and say, "This looks too big for a text - what's up?" Texting has become a tool for social avoidance. Why call when you can text? And for some people who struggle with some social phobias, it is an easy cop-out to quit trying to overcome them.
Texting while driving is a part of the risk of being alive. Even if you don't do it, everyone else does. When I pull up next to a person who seems to be driving erratically - odds are - they are texting. And it isn't just those behind the wheel - texting pedestrians are hazardous. Look up! It is also dangerous to text in the line at the grocery store, because the old woman behind you might whack you with a loaf of hot bread when you are just standing there instead of checking out.
Personal dangers of excessive texting include physical problems with neck and thumbs, sleep disorders, anxiety disorders, bad grades (Which can be dangerous - depending on your parents) and other problems. You think I'm exaggerating? Google the words "texting" and "danger" and pick one of the 4 million hits.
Texting can be dangerous to your income. Ask any employer, and they will tell you the same thing: I have been astonished to see how workers who would never think to make personal calls on the job, text like crazy while they are at work. Here's a tip: If you are texting when you are supposed to be working, then you are stealing payroll money from your employer and you are a dishonest thief.
We've all heard stories about the kid in the neighborhood that had 15,000 texts in one month. More than half the teenagers in the country text more than 50 times a day, with 30% texting more that 100 times a day. That's 1,500 to 3,000 a month right there. That is the OBVIOUS addiction. The addiction I fear most is the gradual behavioral change most of us have experienced since texting became the norm.
We can ignore many things, but there is a amazing Pavlovian response to the sound of an incoming text that DEMANDS that we look at it immediately. I don't know why that is. I can let the phone ring until it goes to voice mail. I can leave email unchecked - but if a text comes through, I feel compelled to read it. Now!
That is why we see people interrupt a face-to-face conversation to check on their digital conversation. That is why I recently saw two couples on a double-date at a restaurant where all four were ignoring each other while staring at their phones for most of dinner. What are we sacrificing?
Do you get nervous when you know a text is there..waiting..calling to you..."come read me"...
How long can you resist?
Can you imagine how irritating it would be if a mail carrier showed up at the door with a 10 word letter as often, and at the same times, as you receive texts?
When did we become so self-important?
When did we decide that what we have to say is so important that we should shoot it to someone anytime, any place?
During work, school or church, in the middle of the night?
When did we start thinking ourselves so important that we need to be available 24/7 or the earth would cease to spin on its axis?
How did a couple ever go on a date before the days of cellphones? How was that possible?
How did a teenager ever get a ride home before cellphones?
How did a guy dump his girlfriend before texting was invented?
How did an employee quit their job or call in sick?
How did we know things we said were funny before they were answered with LOL?
The truth is, texting is a lousy way to communicate. We use it because it is there. It is easy, and we are lazy. Most of what we text is not even very important. Certainly not important enough to deserve a face-to-face or a phone call. Instead. we fill our time and phones with low quality communication, putting both our communication skills, and our health and safety on the line.
And texting rudeness is becoming the norm. I think a lot of us truly don't even realize how rude it is to read a text while speaking to someone in person.
Hopefully the trend will subside - but I doubt it. I know that I'll still be texting today. :(
But maybe we could try and look up every once in a while...