Texting and Emailing: How Modes of Communication Have Shifted

A couple ignores each other while textingHave you noticed the types of conversations you’re having with your spouse, your kids, your friends, and even your coworkers and boss? I bet those conversations sure have changed. OMG! More and more people, myself included, use texting or emailing rather than speaking by phone. We have had to learn a whole new language to keep up with this new type of conversation. LOL!

I was uneasy the first time I started emailing. I was concerned about how the other person was going to “read” my message. Would they hear my tone and understand my sarcasm? When I was a consultant, I worked from home and needed to communicate what I was doing to my director. With a few tips, and a lot of gumption, I started to email on a regular basis. I even got brave enough to start downloading documents to the office. I quickly caught on and was enjoying the convenience of this new tool. Soon, friends were sending me messages. And so it all began, a new rhythm of getting our messages across, but talking had taken a new path.

Then, as I got good at emailing, I didn’t need to go to the office as often as I would have. It was then that I noticed I could “talk” to many people in a day and never even see them. But as a marriage and family therapist, I rely on reading body language to help me interpret what the other person is thinking and feeling, not just what they write. Emailing and texting have become a challenge of the times for readers of body language, like me.

Texting and emailing is fast. When I have a thought, I can text or email it immediately. It’s also convenient because I don’t have to wait for the “beep”. You can retrieve my message at your first available moment.

I must confess that I only started texting two summers ago. Yes, I admit I was scared of the phone that doubled as a typewriter; anyone remember that gadget? Well, my business was getting busier. I was coached by my preteen daughter to buy a new cell phone with text capability, making it easier for my clients and me to be in touch with each other. She also mentioned that I could be in constant contact with her, a big safety factor. I was sold!

So once again, my daughter and I found ourselves back at the mall when we stopped by a corner café to sit down and enjoy a flavored coffee. There were probably about 20 people quietly sitting around, while popular music was playing in the background. Some were sitting alongside a friend, all sipping their favorite drinks… with their cell phones in their hands!

I watched as my daughter pulled her cell phone from her pocket to answer a text, and I again looked around this café at the others seated, and they were all engaged in texting.

And there it was. I was bombarded with questions: Why aren’t we talking to the person who is sitting with us? Do all these messages require immediate attention, at the mall? Is texting still so novel that, like that new toy, we’ve just got to play with it? Are we afraid to interact? Is it because it’s convenient? Is it a sign of status? I’m still trying to wrap my brain around this phenomenon.

Here we are, at a nice meeting place, choosing to ignore those people sitting right in front of us. Choosing to communicate, instead, by texting someone who may be sitting somewhere else, perhaps in another café.

My daughter stopped texting and looked up from her phone. She took a sip of her drink. Calmly she held up her phone to me, and said with a sigh, “Seriously, Mom?” I blushed and put my phone on the table and raised my coffee cup. My text to her said, “I luv u. xoxox. mommy.” Her reply said, “me 2!”

© Copyright 2010 by Beth S. Pumerantz, LMFT, therapist in Upland, California. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views 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.

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  • Todd

    Todd

    May 13th, 2010 at 4:40 PM

    It has become very common…people talk and converse more on their phone by e-mailing and texting than they do verbally and in-person.It has surely changed human relationships all over and every kind of relationship.

  • Beth

    Beth

    May 13th, 2010 at 8:32 PM

    That’s so true, Todd! How interesting it is that we use new technologies, which are created to enhance our lives, only to have them interfere in our lives. What morals and values are we allowing us to live with, and we all know what we do as adults is non-verbal permission for our children to do the same.

  • Carol

    Carol

    May 14th, 2010 at 3:05 AM

    It is time for many people to get off their high horses and face facts- texting and emailing are here to stay and I am glad for it. No I do not think that this is going to make our kids do worse in school. They are not going to write their senior thesis papers using the emoticons and abbreviations that are so common in the gadget world. But they are becoming more technologically advanced than many of us could have ever dreamed possible when we were in school, and I don’t know about you but I think that that is a good thing.

  • Megan D.

    Megan D.

    May 14th, 2010 at 5:06 AM

    I hate to see my 15-year old son on his phone texting his friends all the time.But what gets me really psyched out is that he does it even while having food…I mean,can’t we at least resolve to have food in peace and without any distractions?
    There have been many technological products in the past that have actually done this,like the television,but nothing yet of this magnitude.And what makes the problem worse in the case of cell phones is their portability.The fact that they can be taken anywhere also means that you are carrying the distraction everywhere!

  • Beth

    Beth

    May 15th, 2010 at 11:43 AM

    Thank you Carol for your candor. I totally agree that we are raising technologically advanced children and that this is here to stay! Gosh, I wish I had the opportunity to use emailing, texting, just using a computer in general, when I was a child! I watched my daughter from the time she was tiny and sitting on my lap playing computer games with me grasp technology hungrily. The point that Megan is making, I believe, is one that really becomes a family and parenting issue and not so much gripe with the new tools our kids use. As with all things our kids do we must provide guidance and boundaries. It would be appropriate and acceptable for parents to make clear rules about when it is appropriate to use texting, emailing, tv, etc., and where. Meal times with the family is that time where we focus on the people at our table and develop meaningful conversations in person. We all could benefit from taking a look at how we interact with each other and how we can make changes for the best.

    It’s when those technological tools we admire and know are so important for progress interfer with our ability and desire to communicate and interact with each other, that they become a nusance. Setting limits is key!

  • Desiree T.

    Desiree T.

    February 26th, 2013 at 11:53 PM

    I remember when my daughter was little, about 7yo… All she kept asking me for (begging really), was “technology”…. I didn’t understand what she meant. She was desperate for the iPod that I had barely heard of! As parents we want our children to learn, grow, experience, and have things their peers do, but boy how I sometimes wish I had never given in! Sometimes I think I forget what she looks like because all I see anymore is the top of her head as she texts/facebooks/instagrams away. We have implemented not using phones or devices of any sort during meals (tv is bad enough) and we are also trying to put into effect a “rest period” where she doesn’t use her phone for 30-60 mins before bed. I am guilty myself… Technology rocks! But I long for the simpler times of not so long ago. I love my family and want to stay connected to them more than I care about what’s going on with Facebook :)

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