Texting Is Destroying America

 

Teen-TexterI like texting. For conveying short bits of information, it is much more convenient than having a conversation over the phone and there are numerous situations in which texting is an ideal means of communication. For example, if you’re giving someone an address or asking them to pick up milk on the way home from work, it is easier and more convenient to text than it is to call.

For someone my age I was fairly slow to adopt texting. I steadfastly refused to text at all until I bought an iPhone in 2007. Since then, I’ve come to realize texting can be a valuable medium of communication and I believe that it has generally made me more efficient person. Nevertheless, two recent experiences have led me to conclude that texting is destroying America.

The first experience was two weekends ago when I was in the (novel for me) situation of having houseguests, one of which was my friend’s 13-year-old daughter. Now, like any reasonable adult, I do my best to limit my interaction with adolescents and teenagers to the absolute minimum, so I was completely unprepared for the way texting dominates the lives of America’s youths.

The girl in question, though unobjectionable other respects, spent the entirety of the weekend (meals included) texting. While I’m generally sympathetic to the plight of a 13-year-old who is separated from her peers and forced into the company of a group of adults (and lawyers at that), I couldn’t help but notice that over the course of the weekend this girl did not have a single verbal conversation, either with the people she was around or even over the phone. The few times I tried to engage her in conversation were notable for their lack of success. The girl’s mother appreciated my efforts to engage her daughter in conversation and, somewhat apologetically, told me not to take their failure as a personal rebuke. She assured me that the girl’s verbal taciturnity is not limited to me or to adults generally. She apparently has a boyfriend with whom she communicates almost exclusively via text. I am reliably informed that this is not at all uncommon.

The second experience occurred yesterday. In the course of preparing for upcoming litigation I had to review the phone records of one of the witnesses. The records in question cover a period of two days, during which the witness was asleep for sixteen hours. Over that period of time the witness sent or received 936 text messages. This means the witness either sent or received a text approximately every two minutes she was awake.

This would be a prodigious feat even for the above-mentioned 13-year-old, who had no other real claims on her time or attention. It is all the more astonishing when one considers that the witness in question is a college educated 28-year-old single mother of two who is employed in a fairly responsible position at a major corporation. With all that texting one has to marvel that she is able to find time to feed and clothe her children, let alone accomplish anything at work.

The sheer volume of texts provoked astonishment, but their content caused me to despair. In addition to being depressingly crass and banal, they were so riddled with flagrant departures from the norms of grammar, syntax, and spelling as to be virtually incomprehensible. In fact, it took me several hours before I felt confident in my comprehension of the texts. I actually consider this no mean feat, as they were written in what can best be described as a unique dialect whose relation to standard English is on par with Jamaican patois or Glaswegian (the latter of which I was only able to understand passably after living in Scotland, with a Glaswegian roommate, for some months).

So I understand American society is facing a number of serious problems. We can’t control our borders, the rate of out of wedlock births continues to rise, and the leviathan state is an increasingly ubiquitous presence every facet of our lives, but I submit these threats pale to insignificance when compared to the deleterious effect texting has had on our society.

What do you think? Do you text? If so, how much? Has texting had any effect on your interpersonal relations or on your general ability to communicate?

Photo Credit: Flickr user jhaymesisvip.

There are 89 comments.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  1. Aaron Miller Member

    I will reserve my higher hopes until we can at least stop people from texting while driving.

    • #1
    • August 4, 2014, at 7:44 AM PDT
    • Like
  2. Salvatore Padula Inactive
    Salvatore Padula Post author

    Aaron Miller:

    I will reserve my higher hopes until we can at least stop people from texting while driving.

     I have to confess that I wrote this post by dictating into my phone while driving this morning.

    • #2
    • August 4, 2014, at 7:47 AM PDT
    • Like
  3. Dave of Barsham Member

    Salvatore Padula:

    Aaron Miller:

    I will reserve my higher hopes until we can at least stop people from texting while driving.

    I have to confess that I wrote this post by dictating into my phone while driving this morning.

     Bah! Hypocrites everywhere! (throws hands in the air and walks away).

    • #3
    • August 4, 2014, at 7:53 AM PDT
    • Like
  4. Dave of Barsham Member

    I will admit that texting has largely replaced talking on the phone for me in most circumstances, especially if it’s something small. I can text people a question knowing that if they’re in the middle of something it won’t cause too much of a problem (meeting, etc…) and for some reason it seems less likely to be ignored for a long time than an email. I tend to text friends and family most, in fact my immediate family (mom, siblings, and their spouses) keep a thread going essentially that we can all see and contribute to in order to stay connected.

    That being said the two experiences you mentioned seem pretty extreme but not out of line with what I’ve experienced with people younger than me. I still prefer when at social gatherings to talk face to face, though I’ll admit that I keep my phone close even then.

    • #4
    • August 4, 2014, at 8:02 AM PDT
    • Like
  5. Randy Weivoda Moderator

    Last year I put up this post theorizing that smartphones in general and texting in particular are conditioning people to become poor readers and writers of e-mail.

    • #5
    • August 4, 2014, at 8:04 AM PDT
    • Like
  6. KC Mulville Inactive

    Some of the most basic skills in life are based on stopping. For instance, the ability to know when a meeting should be over, and not letting Doris keep talking about one more thing. (She does that.) Another is hanging up. OK, gotta go, got nothing more to say – click. When the salesman comes to your door, no, thank you, I’m not interested – close the door. You have to learn when to end this encounter and move on to someone or something else. 

    But texting means that your friends, family, and coworkers are always (virtually) with you at every moment. You never close a conversation, you just keep it going endlessly. You’re no longer an individual, you’re just one of the gelatinous mob that’s always available online. Social media means the mob never sleeps. 

    Sometimes you just gotta shut up and go home. I’ll see you tomorrow (meaning, no more tonight).

    • #6
    • August 4, 2014, at 8:10 AM PDT
    • Like
  7. Josh F. Inactive

    For me personally, I began using electronic text communication (instant message, sms texts, Ricochet, Twitter, Facebook, email) more frequently because I work in a room with ten people that requires general silence so everyone can focus on their individual tasks. So, until I have more privacy for face-to-face or voice communication, I will resort to electronic text communication during the workday.

    The parents of the thirteen year old girl should limit her use of her phone, as my parents limited my use of the family computer to talk with my friends on AIM (AOL Instant Messenger). That’s an easy fix.

    The twenty-eight year old is another matter. Ultimately, I think she would need to be put, or put herself, in professional situations where texting is a social taboo. Then, someone would likely inform her, either through negative gossip or friendly advice, that texting your friends while in a work-related meeting creates a negative impression. However, she may already be too far gone.

    • #7
    • August 4, 2014, at 8:12 AM PDT
    • Like
  8. Son of Spengler Contributor

    My teens don’t text anymore, it’s too permanent. Instead, they all use Snapchat. The app was originally designed for sexting (the messages/pics auto-delete after a preset interval), but has grown beyond that market.

    • #8
    • August 4, 2014, at 8:13 AM PDT
    • Like
  9. SkipSul Moderator

    I’ve seen this at play with someone my own age (38). An employee and I had to go and evaluate a piece of machinery. Along the ride there and back again this person rebuffed all attempts at conversation, preferring to text with friends the entire trip (2 hours each way).

    Of course this person has since revealed themselves to have other *issues* and may not be around much longer.

    • #9
    • August 4, 2014, at 8:14 AM PDT
    • Like
  10. Guruforhire Member

    I use texts for temporally asyncronous communication.

    I don’t text with many people, because I am not terribly social and most people are terrible.

    • #10
    • August 4, 2014, at 8:17 AM PDT
    • Like
  11. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Salvatore Padula:

    Now, like any reasonable adult, I do my best to limit my interaction with adolescents and teenagers to the absolute minimum, so I was completely unprepared for the way texting dominates the lives of America’s youths.

    The girl in question, though unobjectionable other respects, spent the entirety of the weekend (meals included) texting…. I couldn’t help but notice that over the course of the weekend this girl did not have a single verbal conversation, either with the people she was around or even over the phone.

    Sounds like texting does a pretty good job of helping adults to limit their interactions with adolescents to the absolute minimum.

    • #11
    • August 4, 2014, at 8:43 AM PDT
    • Like
  12. Bob Wainwright Member

    I can see how it would be more efficient than telephony in many business contexts, and even some personal contexts. But personal interactions are not primarily supposed to be “efficient”. I also have a teenage girl in my extended family who seems to be like the one you mentioned. Sometimes these kids literally text each other while sitting next to each other on a couch. It seems to be worse among girls for some reason. I even notice that it seems to be more prevalent among grown women than men. What I can’t figure out is how this will play out when these kids eventually run the country. Will texting have caused some kind of mass dementia or other mental illness? Looking at the kids who do it, it’s hard to conclude otherwise.

    • #12
    • August 4, 2014, at 8:51 AM PDT
    • Like
  13. Probable Cause Inactive

    I don’t text. Though I realize I’m a neanderthal reactionary.

    Two observations:

    1. I don’t care who you are. If you want to eat at my table, do not bring your mobile device.

    2. Star Trek lied to us. We were shown the future in which instant communication was available to the entire crew, and the only time they communicated was when someone needed to be beamed up. Now we find out the truth — mobile devices are virtual umbilical cords.

    • #13
    • August 4, 2014, at 8:51 AM PDT
    • Like
  14. Bob Wainwright Member

    It’s interesting that texting never seems to have been predicted by science fiction or even people who try to predict future trends and fads for the stock market. Why would it have occurred to anyone that a high-tech form of telegraphy would become more popular than telephony? The latter was supposed to be an advancement over the former. It’s not as if the technology behind texting couldn’t have been anticipated. I think it’s the psychological appeal of it, which I don’t myself fully grasp, that was not predicted.

    • #14
    • August 4, 2014, at 9:15 AM PDT
    • Like
  15. iWe Reagan
    iWe

    My kids don’t text. Not at all. They DO IM in the background (when they are in front of a computer). But their phones have no text in the plan. I did not realize how fortunate I am.

    I find it ironic that my kids end up being much better at communicating than their peers, just by virtue of lacking basic technology.

    I don’t text except when I have to. I find it is much slower (even with Swype) than typing on a real keyboard, and the exra hassle drives me nuts.

    • #15
    • August 4, 2014, at 9:15 AM PDT
    • Like
  16. Kephalithos Member

    Salvatore Padula: While I’m generally sympathetic to the plight of a 13-year-old who is separated from her peers and forced into the company of a group of adults (and lawyers at that) …

    Your sympathy is misplaced; peers are far more damaging to 13-year-olds than are adult lawyers. Trust me.

    The most useful trait a young person could possess, I’ve concluded, is an aversion to other young people.

    • #16
    • August 4, 2014, at 9:40 AM PDT
    • Like
  17. Probable Cause Inactive

    iWc:

    I find it ironic that my kids end up being much better at communicating than their peers, just by virtue of lacking basic technology.

    Ditto. I’m almost to the point of telling my kids that they could drop out of high school and succeed in the marketplace, since they are among the few that can carry on a conversation in a job interview.

    • #17
    • August 4, 2014, at 9:41 AM PDT
    • Like
  18. Probable Cause Inactive

    Bob Wainwright: It seems to be worse among girls for some reason.

    I have noticed that technology isolates children from their parents. A corollary is that texting is a means by which boys bypass girls’ fathers in order to access them directly.

    • #18
    • August 4, 2014, at 9:52 AM PDT
    • Like
  19. 4CuriousJohn Thatcher

    If my wife and kids would answer their phones X&%#@@*^% I wouldn’t have to text them. Thank god for the speak to text function.

    • #19
    • August 4, 2014, at 9:52 AM PDT
    • Like
  20. 4CuriousJohn Thatcher

    iWc:

    My kids don’t text. Not at all. They DO IM in the background (when they are in front of a computer). But their phones have no text in the plan. I did not realize how fortunate I am.

    I find it ironic that my kids end up being much better at communicating than their peers, just by virtue of lacking basic technology.

    I don’t text except when I have to. I find it is much slower (even with Swype) than typing on a real keyboard, and the exra hassle drives me nuts.

     I was very impressed by your “Number 1 Son” in Michigan when it came to holding, keeping as well as starting the conversation on many subjects.

    • #20
    • August 4, 2014, at 9:56 AM PDT
    • Like
  21. 4CuriousJohn Thatcher

    Guruforhire:

    I use texts for temporally asyncronous communication.

    I don’t text with many people, because I am not terribly social and most people are terrible.

    ” Get’em while their hot” Tasty -Bastard coated Bastards with Bastard crunchy filling –

    • #21
    • August 4, 2014, at 10:00 AM PDT
    • Like
  22. iWe Reagan
    iWe

    CuriousJohn: I was very impressed by your “Number 1 Son” in Michigan when it came to holding, keeping as well as starting the conversation on many subjects.

    Thank you. That was #2, BTW.

    Number 1 is a computer guy who gets job offers everywhere he turns, just because he is friendly and can talk, endlessly, about code. For someone who counts in binary he is, apparently, highly verbal.

    • #22
    • August 4, 2014, at 10:04 AM PDT
    • Like
  23. iWe Reagan
    iWe

    I LOVE that clip. Thanks for sharing!

    • #23
    • August 4, 2014, at 10:05 AM PDT
    • Like
  24. Profile Photo Member

    Lack of boundaries is the problem. Wisdom is knowing when to say no. The Internet and electronic communication are habit forming. They have their uses and their misuses.

    Japan went this way. The young people had pocket pagers that they texted with. Later with cell phones to keep costs down they texted their friends. The speed at which this can be done is amazing.

    How do we get people to sit still and concentrate on one thing for more than 5 minutes? Everything has gone so frenetic. People aren’t listening to the “lecture” they are passing “notes” therefore no notes are taken.

    • #24
    • August 4, 2014, at 10:05 AM PDT
    • Like
  25. Dave of Barsham Member

    Randy Weivoda:

    Last year I put up this post theorizing that smartphones in general and texting in particular are conditioning people to become poor readers and writers of e-mail.

     After reading this I thought, “I’m glad I don’t have that problem,” and then I proceeded to re-read my comment and find multiple mistakes…

    • #25
    • August 4, 2014, at 10:27 AM PDT
    • Like
  26. HeartofFLA Inactive

    My 24 year old son and I text, message through Facebook, Skype and occasionally talk on the phone or send email. I’m grateful for the options especially with him moving across the pond soon.
    However, all of the other family relationships are communicated in person or via phone. And yes, all are over 50 years of age.
    One funny story…my son shared an apartment with another graduate student last year. We were there for a short visit and had planned a dinner out with both our son and the roommate. We knew the roommate wasn’t very social but thought a free dinner should be enticing to any poor graduate student. Upon meeting him, he retreated to his room and a few minutes later our son received a text indicating that the roommate had decided not to go to dinner with us. The fact that he had declined the invitation wasn’t alarming but the fact that the roommate’s room was less than ten feet away from the living room and that he couldn’t take it upon himself to re-enter the room and graciously decline the invitation was a little weird.

    • #26
    • August 4, 2014, at 10:31 AM PDT
    • Like
  27. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Salvatore Padula:

    The sheer volume of texts provoked astonishment, but their content caused me to despair. In addition to being depressingly crass and banal, they were so riddled with flagrant departures from the norms of grammar, syntax, and spelling as to be virtually incomprehensible.

    Incomprehensible to you. Evidently not incomprehensible to the people using them – or at least no more incomprehensible than communication usually is (obfuscation being one of communication’s many functions). Else they wouldn’t bother using this patois to communicate.

    Using rebuses isn’t new. Slang evolved to fit the constraints of communications technology isn’t new either. Telegraph operators had it. Ham radio enthusiasts have it. If I wished to indulge in continual rapid-fire typed chitchat on a miniscule mobile device, I’d resort to abbreviations, too.

    We esteem certain grammatical norms not because they’re necessary for a functioning language, but because they help preserve a culture that’s worth preserving.

    Most of us can learn more than one language, dialect, or register. The problem isn’t texting patois itself, it’s only knowing texting patois. Which, if you spend all your time texting, will be all you’ll know.

    • #27
    • August 4, 2014, at 10:44 AM PDT
    • Like
  28. Salvatore Padula Inactive
    Salvatore Padula Post author

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: Most of us can learn more than one language, dialect, or register. The problem isn’t texting patois itself, it’s only knowing texting patois. Which, if you spend all your time texting, will be all you’ll know.

     You’ve made an excellent point. I’ve also reviewed work emails written by the same witness and, while they’re substantially closer to standard English, it’s pretty clear that texting patois has influenced her writing in other media.

    • #28
    • August 4, 2014, at 10:49 AM PDT
    • Like
  29. Kephalithos Member

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: Slang evolved to fit the constraints of communications technology isn’t new either … Ham radio enthusiasts have it. If I wished to indulge in continual rapid-fire typed chitchat on a miniscule mobile device, I’d resort to abbreviations, too.

    This is purely anecdotal, but, in my experience, the abbreviations associated with text-messaging — like the per-character payment plans that spawned them — have all but disappeared. I can’t recall the last time I received (or glanced at) a text message using “LOL” honestly.

    Texting destroyed the barrier between conversational (informal) speech and written communication, to grammar’s detriment.

    • #29
    • August 4, 2014, at 11:16 AM PDT
    • Like
  30. Amy Schley Moderator

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: Most of us can learn more than one language, dialect, or register. The problem isn’t texting patois itself, it’s only knowing texting patois. Which, if you spend all your time texting, will be all you’ll know.

     You mean you shouldn’t talk like this?

    • #30
    • August 4, 2014, at 12:07 PM PDT
    • Like
  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3