Texting: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
By Palash R. Ghosh | September 22, 2011 10:14 PM EST
A recent report indicated that almost one-third (31 percent) of Americans prefer texting their friends and family to calling them on their mobile phones.
At first, this news surprised me… but then I realized that the one-third figure seems awfully low.
The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project survey also revealed that 83 percent of American adults own mobile phones, and almost three-quarters of that group send and receive text messages.
I have had a mobile phone for the past eight years (I joined the 21st-century somewhat late) and I estimate that I send about a dozen texts daily. I rarely ever call anyone anymore to speak unless it’s an emergency or absolutely necessary.
Moreover, I prefer to receive text messages rather than voice mails.
During the ancient days of landline phones (remember those?), I was never comfortable speaking for long periods of time. Telephones and mobile phones are by their very nature “alienating” forms of communication. I have always preferred direct face-to-face contact with people -- this way, one can detect such subtle elements of communication involving body language, the look in one’s eyes, tone of voice, and a multitude of other human expressions that are robotically eliminated by impersonal electronic dialogue.
In any case, text messages are far superior to actual voice transmissions for a number of reasons – one has to get to the point quickly and write concisely. Too many people ramble on endlessly and fail to express themselves clearly and logically when they speak. When one is forced to write a message, they lose that “luxury” of abusing the English language and of pointless meandering.
If you can’t state your message in fifty words or less, then don’t bother texting.
But there is of course a darker side to this texting craze.
According to the Pew study, young adults (those between the ages of 18 and 24) exchange an average of 109.5 messages per day. This translates into more than 3,200 texts per month!
Or, assuming one is awake for sixteen hours a day, then the average youth is sending/receiving about 6.8 texts every hour – or more than once every ten minutes!
That seems grossly excessive to me – and it suggests that many people are literally/psychologically ‘tied’ to their mobile phones like they’re one of their limbs.
And keep in mind that the aforementioned figures denote “averages” – who knows what the upper extreme numbers look like?
Moreover, I’ll wager that the vast majority of these messages are utterly inane and pointless.
Interestingly, another report suggests that texting activity may actually be leveling off.
A survey by Pew Internet indicated that American mobile phone owners (presumably of all age groups, including older folk who don’t text too much) sent an average of 41.5 text messages per day last spring -- a small rise from the 39.1 sent last year.
It makes sense that texting may be peaking – how much can it possibly increase? After all, there are only 24 hours per day.
But there is a larger question here. Tech companies have provided us with a wealth of innovative, sophisticated and convenient ways for people to communicate – but are these devices really improving the quality of such messages? Are they making us more clever and creative?
My guess is no. Too many people are spending too much time texting and calling on their cell phones as it is – much of these exchanges are unnecessary and pointless. It has become an addiction.
At some point, there will likely be a backlash against mobile communications.
Yet, mobile phones are extremely useful and convenient devices to have. But I wish people wouldn’t use them so often.
To contact the editor, e-mail: