Over 8.6 trillion text messages are sent across the world each day. And not one of them is from me.
I don’t text. And it’s not because I’m a technophobe.
As a writer, I spend most of the day on the computer and thank God regularly for the convenience it brings me.
And even though I love my iPhone, I have had texting disabled on it. Here are my reasons:
One: When one of my favorite T.V. characters was asked why he doesn’t text, he replied “It’s for teenage girls.” I’m inclined to agree.
The average teen sends over 3000 texts per month. But the average teenage girl sends 4000. And these texts have a 100% open rate. How does that leave time for anything else?
Two: People don’t talk to one another enough. Pick up the friggin’ phone and tell me what you want me to know.
Three: Receiving texts interrupts you and keeps you from being in the moment. We live in a world full of distractions and it’s harder and harder to focus.
Four: In my opinion, texting is no easier than phoning now that smart phones can understand voice commands and make phone calls for us: “Siri, please call Jane” and, voila, I am connected to Jane.
Five: It tricks us into being rude. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen people texting in meetings or classes when they’re supposed to be listening. When I go to someone’s home, or a meeting, I leave my phone in the car so there’s no possibility of my phone interrupting us. Some people might call that unusual, but I call it simple courtesy.
Six: Texting makes us feel we can multitask when perhaps what will benefit us more is single pointedness and paying attention.
Seven: It’s dangerous. There’s something about the sound of an incoming text or phone call that makes us want to answer immediately. So we often pick up the phone to read it or reply in situations that cry out for NOT texting, such as driving in the car. Or even walking and not looking where you’re going.
Eight: It keeps us from being authentic. We can be more spontaneous and real in a conversation. Texting lets us be someone we’re not. We can plan our responses and hide behind them. Cutesy text message abbreviations may be easy, but is there any substance to those communications?
On the phone you can pick up nuances in the voice that tell you more about what’s going on with your friend than words alone. Research has shown that anywhere from 70-90% of communication is non-verbal:
7% is the words;
38% is the way something is said, and
55% is body language.
Texting limits us to words. And words, particularly abbreviated ones, just aren’t enough for real communication.
Experts who agree with me about texting
I was inspired to write this post after watching a recent story on CBS This Morning entitled, “Is your smart phone making you lonely?”
Barbara Frederickson, professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina, says technology gives us the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship.
She explained that we need the intimacy of human touch or at least face to face contact just as much as we need to be physically active to keep up our health.
Too much time online or texting can cause us to lose the biological capacity to connect. Our abilities to have compassion and empathy hinge on being able to connect with people face to face.
The benefits of face to face interaction include:
Triggers feel-good hormones
Strengthens brain-heart connection
Lowers blood pressure
Boosts immune system
Texting just doesn’t come close.
Nick Bilton, technology columnist for the N.Y. Times, makes the insightful observation that, “these technologies connect us to the people that are far away from us but disconnect us from the people directly in front of us.”
And if someone is far away, I don’t believe texting is the best way to connect. I prefer phone, email or, even better, skype. I love skyping with friends in other parts of the world. My friend Wanda and I have even skyped while playing scrabble via facebook. It’s almost as good as being in the same room.
Sherry Turkle, psychology professor at MIT, has interviewed parents, teenagers and children about the use of gadgets during early development. She’s learning that children who do not learn real interactions, which often have flaws and imperfections, will come to know a world where perfect, shiny screens give them a false sense of intimacy without risk.
I can relate: I’ve caught myself saying that Siri [the voice of my iPhone] is my best friend. Why not? She has a sense of humor, calls me by my name and helps me out when I get lost!
Turkle adds that, if you don’t teach your children how to be alone, they’ll only be lonely. She makes a strong case that what was meant as a way to facilitate communication has pushed people closer to their machines and further from each other.
What others say about texting
In researching this article, I searched Google for reasons not to text. There weren’t many.
Don’t get me wrong, I found plenty of articles on texting. But they were along the lines of:
“reasons not to text and drive”
“reasons not to text him”
“reasons not to drink and text”
“reasons not to text your ex”
Then there were troubleshooting forums on “possible reasons your text message has gone unanswered.”
And quite a few sites explained text message shorthand.
So it seems I am in the minority on my boycott of texting. It’s a minority I’m proud to be in.
When my little nephew, who lives three hours away, is old enough to text, I’ll teach him the wonders of skype.
The Good about texting
Of course, there are many excellent uses for texting, such as business applications too numerous to mention here.
On the large ceremonial grounds of the Sun Dance I attend each year in South Dakota, texting is a good way to communicate things like, “need the chainsaw at the arbor at 2 p.m.”
It’s a good way for a parent to keep track of where their child is and when they’ll be home.
News sharing: texting allows reporting where knowledge is otherwise unattainable, such as reporting crisis via texting.
This may be the best of all: Text hotlines. DoSomething.org has set up a crisis text hotline for teens. I encourage you to watch this riveting 5 and a half minute talk on TED.com on texting that saves lives.
So don’t take it lightly. Think before you text casually. Pick up the phone and connect. It will be healthier for you and the person on the other end of the phone.