A customer approaches the check out counter at a local supermarket. The young clerk vigorously types away on his cell phone. The customer pushes their cart to the counter and waits for him to finish sending his text message. Finally, a few seconds later, he glides his phone into his pocket with the skill and ease of a professional gunfighter. Not saying a word, he begins scanning the grocery items from the cart. "How are you today?" the customer ask the young man. "Fine sir" he replied in a barely auditable voice, never bothering to look up or make eye contact. It was clear that he was not comfortable speaking to a stranger face to face.
Cell phones and text messaging have changed the way we communicate. Young people today are in a constant state of socialization. They are never out of reach from anybody that has their number and today's smart phones constantly bombard them with updates from social networks and email. While this has increased the speed and frequency in which we communicate, it has also given rise to some very disturbing trends.
One example is how so many young people now spend far more time text messaging than talking on the phone or in person and as a result, interpersonal skills suffer and the art of meaningful conversation is becoming lost. Young people have become so much more comfortable text messaging, that many times, they would rather text someone than talk to them face to face, even when they are in the same room. It is not uncommon to find students text messaging in the classroom and employee's text messaging while at work. Parents will tell you they often find their kids doing homework, "Facebooking", "texting" and watching television all at the same time. While this does seem to sharpen their skills for multitasking, the interpersonal nature of text messaging has caused many young people to become more brazen about the things they say in text messages and post online. They will text things they might never say face to face. This has given rise to new social issues such as sexing and cyber bullying.
Another disturbing trend is the effect that text messaging is having on our written language. Text messaging is a forgiving system. Most text messages are limited to 160 characters, so in order to get your message across users frequently use common abbreviations and most rules of grammar and punctuation no longer apply. When we text, we ignore most of what we have learned about the English language. As we ignore what we have learned, we also tend to forget, and our language skills begin to degenerate. Many teachers today will tell you how they are finding more misspellings, punctuation errors and abbreviations on written school work than ever before.
Most disturbing, is the growing number of traffic accidents caused by text messaging while driving. According to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 16% of all fatal crashes in 2008 were the result of driver distraction (Texting While Driving). While the exact number attributed to text messaging is unclear, one thing that is certain is that texting dramatically impairs a drivers abilities to operate safely. Many states are now enacting legislation design to combat this growing problem.
One thing is certain. Interpersonal connections and socialization is changing. While the speed and ease of cell phones and texting seem to be making communication more frequent, it is also becoming less personal and intimate and is causing us to become more illiterate. Meaningful face to face conversations are becoming more difficult for younger generations and written communication is becoming a thing of the past. It is up to elder generations of families, teachers, and employers to insure that we understand the importance of safe text messaging, literacy in written language and to insure that the meaningful art of conversation is not forever lost.
Texting While Driving. Learn about texting while driving dangers and solutions.
http://texting-while-driving.org/. (March 8, 2011)