How Texting Changes CommunicationJuly 26, 2012 • Contributed by Zawn Villines, GoodTherapy.org Correspondent
Texting has, in many ways, made communication easier by helping people avoid long, unpleasant phone conversations and making a quick “Hello” much easier. According to the Pew Research Center, 72% of teenagers text regularly, and one in three sends more than 100 texts per day. Clearly, texting is the preferred method of communication among young people, and that trend is moving upward toward adults, who are also texting much more frequently. While texting hasn’t been around long enough for researchers to study its long-term effects on communication, there is circumstantial evidence that it is rapidly altering the ways people communicate with one another both via text and in person.
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Texting encourages rapid-fire, single-sentence thoughts, but this style of communication isn’t conducive to face-to-face communication. Consequently, people who text a lot may be more uncomfortable with in-person communication and may even use their cell phones to communicate with people who are in their presence. Parents often report that their teens text during dinner, and the friend who texts during a group night out is a common phenomenon. The reality may be not that these people are being rude but that they are uncomfortable with slow-paced, in-person communication.
Texting increases the frequency of small talk and can be a great asset to people beginning to form a friendship; they may be much more comfortable texting each other witty one-liners than they are picking up the phone and calling. But texting is, almost by definition, surface-level communication. When people communicate primarily via text, they’re much less likely to have meaningful conversations.
People know they’re using improper grammar when they text; it’s merely a shortcut that enables them to relay a message quickly and effectively. But over time, the way we communicate—even if we know the way we communicate is “technically” wrong—affects the way we think. The result is that people who have grown up texting may have much poorer writing skills than people who regularly communicate using grammatically correct sentences either in person, over the phone, or via email. Even worse, they may lose their ability to modify their tone and style depending upon who they talk to. Many employers complain that entry-level hires have no idea how to send a business email or communicate appropriately to superiors.
Impatience and Instant Gratification
Texting is real-time communication but is not in person. This creates an odd situation in which people feel compelled to respond immediately via text, but they aren’t really participating in an ongoing, progressively deepening conversation. The instant gratification of texting can lead to incredible impatience, even aggression. But when people are in person, the requirement of communicating immediately can be daunting for people communicating primarily via text. Thus texting can inhibit both in-person communication and texting itself.
Unlike phone calls, there are no clear rules about when it’s acceptable to text. And because texting doesn’t result in an angry person answering on the other end, many people feel more comfortable texting at any time and in any circumstance. The result is a decrease in privacy and social boundaries. People may text in the middle of the night or while someone is on vacation and expect an immediate response, because of the impatience texting encourages. The result is a blurring of the lines between public and private. While a couple might previously expect no interruptions on a vacation or honeymoon, they can now anticipate receiving and responding to texts. Because texting is not old enough for psychologists to know how this affects intimacy, we can only guess at its long-term effects on relationships.
- Alison Bryant, J., Sanders-Jackson, A., Smallwood, A. K. (2006). IMing, Text messaging, and adolescent social networks. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication,11(2), 577-592. doi: 10.1111/j.1083-6101.2006.00028.x
- Hanna, J. (n.d.). W&L Psychology Project examines cell-phone usage and adolescent health. Washington and Lee University. Retrieved from http://news.blogs.wlu.edu/2012/07/24/wl-psychology-project-examines-cell-phone-usage-and-adolescent-health/
- Influence of Texting on Communication Skills. (n.d.). Influence of texting on communication skills. Retrieved from http://artofeloquence.com/texting/
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Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org. The preceding article was solely written by the author name above. The view and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.
MarthaJuly 26th, 2012 at 4:23 PM
Personally I find texting to be so much more practical than making phone calls anymore. You can text discreetly, not interrupt someone with a blaring teelephone ring, and you can respond when it is convenient to you. I still know how to talk, I still know how to write, texting hasn’t taken away any of those skills. It is just an addition to the way we all communicate these days. I won’t stop texting until something even more user friendly comes along.
SamJuly 27th, 2012 at 4:06 AM
Yeah we text a lot, but it’s not like we think that this is the way you should speak in public or even write a letter. I think that most of us know the difference between the things you say and the way you spell and abbreviate when texting and what is actually gramatically correct.
Frannie WJuly 27th, 2012 at 3:46 PM
While I don’t think that texting has really affected the way that adults communicate, I do find that it has been a detriment to the conversation that teens today can have. They can’t write a line without adding an emoticon! And that’s disturbing to me. I love the gift of language that we have been given and so many do not even know how to use that gift at all anymore. Pretty sad that English teachers now have to be so open minded when they grade because if they weren’t then no one would pass the classes anymore. It really all boils down to the fact that they have all become lazy and unbfortunately texting monly supports them to be slack.
michaelJuly 27th, 2012 at 9:49 PM
although texting affords us great convenience there are a lot of drawbacks that it has and as you have listed them out, they can go on to actually change your spoken language and I have seen my friends actually having ended up writing SMS short forms of words in their exams! As for me, I always write full sentences even when I’m texting and frankly, I do not like it when others send those short forms of words. Not only are they messing with their language skills but are frustrating others with such language too.
MarcusJuly 28th, 2012 at 6:05 AM
Well, we have to roll with the times, and if we don’t we continue to get farther and farther behind. It would be a shmae if writing as we know it today disappeared, but don’t you think that the Victorians felt that way about letter writing once the telephone began to emerge? I mean, it’s all about embracing the new and making it so that we don’t lose the things that we love and are valuable but by the same token don’t be left behind because we are scared of what the future may hold. Goes right along with the words form Christopher Columbus that are posted on here this week.
jasonJuly 29th, 2012 at 9:25 AM
I have noticed just how impatient some people can get if they text you and then you don’t immediately text them a response. I just have to tell some of my friends that I’m not chanined to my phone like they are and they will get a reply from me when I get around to doing it!
georgiaJuly 31st, 2012 at 12:25 AM
if there’s anything texting has changed,it is the fact that there is just no way of knowing the emotions or the feeling with which a person said something to you.or rather communicated to you.
when you talk to somebody face to face here is just so much more communication going on beyond the spoken words.there is facial expression and the general enthusiasm levels that are exposed.then came the telephone where we could not see but at least the voice gives us cues on those things.but none of that is present in texting and although it may be a great way to communicate it is making us more of an emotion-less machine.
RochelleJuly 31st, 2012 at 8:39 AM
I find texting very convenient and it helps me to stay focused on the point I’m making without developing into a conversation.
And at the same time, turning off the phone is quite gratifying.
ToriMay 4th, 2013 at 8:16 AM
The English language has evolved over the last couple decades due to many different causes such as the generation of technology. One technology in particular, cell phones has advanced exponentially in both design and function. The first cell phone was in 1983 and was primarily a house phone that is portable. Now, cell phones are much slimmer and easier to take around. Also, cell phones have a new function: text messaging. Text messaging is harming the communication skills of the present and future generations. Texting dialect is the lazy way to write. The sentence above, “Y u wnt 2 no,” turns an 18 character sentence (spaces not included) into an eight character sentence. We have two corrective actions that can and should be made. One step would be making English composition classes and writing mandatory for all years of middle school and high school. Another step to prevention is leading by example; writing to the people around us who need help with writing correctly in email, text, social networking, and letters spelling out everything and using proper grammar and punctuation. Texting has harmed communication and the English language due to inappropriate use and it is our job to correct it.
Noel @ MosioAugust 5th, 2013 at 3:37 PM
It certainly has changed communication and there are obviously varying degrees of for/against regarding its usefulness, especially where therapy/health services are concerned.
Nothing will beat a face to face, but these days with everyone on the go, mobile phones in hand/pocket/purse, text messaging is proving itself to be an incredibly valuable communication tool “at the point of need.” Love it or hate it, it is here and I think it’s smart that therapists are using it in a positive way.
Dale K.May 1st, 2014 at 10:39 PM
I thought I would use texting less as I got old, but it is far from the truth. It is no longer just for teenagers. I conduct a lot of business every week through text with both buyers and sellers. Oh…and I strongly agree with you 100% on the “Instant Gratification” part. I can’t imagine where I would be without my bff, QWERTY. Where would I be without him? :) Thanks!
MarkMarch 13th, 2015 at 1:05 PM
My own opinion…
This isn’t about “everyone,” but more about people with actual communication skill issues. Sure, I feel completely O.K. at public speaking and communicating with friends in any fashion. So my first thought is this isn’t about me, but about others. So, I won’t discredit that fact that texting is a crutch that people cling. Primary problem I could see is before the person(s) grasp a firm understanding of verbal communication, they, instead choose texting because its the “easy” choice. Having texting as your primary source for communication, I don’t believe was intended at all. Texting was only supposed to be for the quick connect, confirmation, seeing how you’re doing type of deals. You shouldn’t have a text conversation about a relationship your in, or anything that’s below the surface. So many variables come into play when you lose some of the senses we’ve been given. We lose the sight of the person, the hearing of the person, the smell of the person, the touch of the person. The only thing we are left with is an idea of what the person on the other end is trying to communicate with us, and it’s left fully under our own interpretation. I could say, “Psht, I love you.” But what am I trying to get across? Am I being sarcastic? Do my words have spite? Anger? Happiness? Silliness because I feel the person I’m saying this too is silly for thinking otherwise? So many incorrect interpretations, and only one real one. How do you chose?
TausifApril 21st, 2015 at 4:54 AM
It’s just a perspective of someone, because some may feel uncomfortable in face to face communication while other feel very comfortable in it. Like, I can do both. Yeah it has become a trend in the young people which is not good as they can not cope up with the face to face conversation, they will feel very uneasy in their future life. In many cases, if one is very accustom to text, in time of interview one can not be able to speak for this problem. So, its very important to be fit with both the terms.
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