Thought Catalog

10 Reasons Why Texting Is Awful For Society And Ruining It Too

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On December 3, 1992 – when the first “Merry Christmas” SMS text message was sent from the computer of 22-year-old engineer Neil Papworth to the cell phone of Vodafone user Richard Jarvis – society created a new communication need: The Text. And after that fateful day in 1992, gone were the days of instant, real-time interaction, as they had been replaced by this mode of communication that will be fundamentally flawed for as long as it prevails. Here’s why.

1. Men and women communicate differently

According to various psychological studies and my Interpersonal Communications class at Boston College, men and women value communication differently. They see communication as having different significances, and oftentimes, those significances are not aligned. Men see communication as a way to exchange information. Once information is exchanged, men feel as if they have nothing more to talk about. The scope of conversation for women, on the other hand, is unlimited, as women see communication as a tool to connect, relate, and share. For the average woman, communication is essential to creating lasting bonds. Men bond by doing activities together, like participating in sports, watching movies or TV shows, or playing videos games.

Texting is important to a woman because she loves that she has the ability to talk her friends about anything without the limitations of “where” and “when”—a few strokes of her fingers on her keyboard, and her thought is in someone else’s hands. And women will text back and forth for hours about absolutely nothing. However, for men, texting doesn’t count as an “activity” over which to bond. Texting is just communicating, and this is not a man’s preferred method of connecting with others.

When you are with your boyfriend in person, communication is an addendum to doing other things, even if other things are as simple as touching or eating a meal. But texting is communication for the sake of communication. And if a man doesn’t text a woman as similarly or enthusiastically as she texts him, she becomes insulted and thinks he has no interest in her. She sees his lack of fervent texting as him not wanting to bond, and this will forever be a dilemma between men and women when they text. He’d just rather you come over, make Ramen noodles, and watch Safety Not Guaranteed with him instead.

2. It associates periods with meanness

What was once a common, harmless punctuation mark has now become a symbol of hatred. It’s acceptable – no, preferred – to use all other forms of perfect grammar when constructing a text message: capitalization of names and of “I,” commas, and minimal chat speak and abbreviations. Break out the period at the end of a sentence, though, and it’s guaranteed that the recipient of your message will think he/she did something terribly wrong.

In real life communication, you can rely on things like tone, speed, and volume to determine implications and connotations in other people’s words. When we text, all of these vital non-verbal aspects of verbal communication become a mystery, so we are forced to infer them. The period, in all of its rigid grammatical finality, has become equivalent to a stern tone of voice.

The desired method is now a lack of punctuation at all. It’s noncommittal and implies a more relaxed tone, which is certainly preferred in a conversation. And now, when I want to convey anger, I actually do use a period. Sorry, periods. You were so innocent before texting.

3. It makes it easy for charming in-person traits to be misconstrued

What’s more charming than self-deprecating humor, witty sarcasm, or quirky personality traits that rely on voice inflections or volume changes? Few things, that’s what. And texting is the ultimate enemy for people who rely on these things to make friends or meet lovers. As the old saying goes, it truly isn’t what you say, but how you say it, and texting only leaves us with the “what.” It’s far too easy for a sarcastic comment to be misconstrued as genuinely hurtful, and it’s far too difficult to make a successful joke without any voice inflection. Texting makes quirky personality traits blend into the background and leaves us with a boring society of homogeneity.

If you are gullible or aren’t completely attuned to the texting style of the person with whom you are texting, you can easily make lots of mistakes when determining the meaning of certain messages. And if you are really unsure whether or not something was a joke, well – that’s even worse.

4. It makes us secretly operate in extremes all the time

Nowadays, it seems as though we are always communicating with someone. Whether you are typing a text message as you read this or if you are currently letting someone linger (purposefully or not) before you give a response, you are involved in an interaction. And something about being in the middle of a text message interaction conjures up strange hidden feelings.

When we’re waiting for a response from someone or waiting to continue an interaction, we’re in limbo. Our feelings are dormant, waiting. Finally, when we get a response (or lack thereof), the aforementioned deep feelings come to fruition, and they are always on either extreme end: soaring happiness or intense rejection. And not knowing which end of the spectrum you will feel and when you will feel it is incredibly stressful. Seriously, who doesn’t experience that sudden excited feeling when they get a new text message? And who doesn’t feel the immense pain that comes with not receiving a desired text message response? This brings us to #5.

5. It makes ignoring easier and more commonplace

Imagine someone ignored you in real life, or perhaps took a few extra awkward moments to respond to one of your thoughts. Would you feel bad? Sure, you might. But you wouldn’t really have as much time to feel as bad if you were ignored in person as you would if you were ignored via text. In person, ignoring is pretty instant. However, since texting doesn’t happen in real-time, you won’t realize that you were ignored until several hours later when you still haven’t received a response. The anxiety just builds upon itself for hours and hours until it topples over in a feeling of entrenched abandonment. At that point, you will have had far too much time to mull over your rejection, and you will just feel really, really awful.

It’s easy to ignore someone when they text you. You can just put your phone down and remove that person from your current train of thought. You can’t do this when they are right in front of your face. And if you’re not face-to-face, you also can’t see how that person is reacting to your ignore. As Louis C.K. stated in a genius rant on Conan O’Brien about the dangers of technology, we now have the ability to say or do something mean without seeing the result of our actions. Thus, we cannot build sympathy. If you’re mean to someone in person, you can see that it makes them sad, so you learn that this action = this result. If you’re mean to or ignore someone via text message, you can’t see how they’re responding, so you’ll never learn what happens when you ignore them. Which is that they cry to their friends and spend hours analyzing what they did wrong.

6. It gives us false senses of power

Throughout history, power has involved the ability to influence the behavior of a people through an authority perceived as legitimate by a social structure. Power is present in the workplace if you achieve a higher-ranking position, in the government if you are politically influential, in the military, and more. Now, in the 21st century, power is also equivalent to someone waiting on you for a text message response.

There is always a power struggle during a texting conversation (especially in one of romantic pursuits), and if you say you don’t actually physically feel it, you’re lying. Once you send a text message of any kind, there is a very real chance that you will not receive a response. You are being vulnerable to the possibility that someone will put their phone away for a long period of time and ignore you. And because we live in a society where vulnerability is seen as weakness which is seen as lack of power, the person who sends the text message has lost just the tiniest amount of power in a conversation. The person who receives the text – who holds the sender’s vulnerability in his/her hands – has the power. The more time that passes, the more power that person has.

This kind of power struggle doesn’t exist in real life. It might exist if there’s some kind of confessional conversation, like if someone is sharing feelings for the first time or if they are admitting they didn’t something wrong. Other than that, though, regular back-and-forth conversations do not involve long pauses, power, or legitimate possibilities of being ignored. In real life, the definition of power does not include it being your turn to speak.

7. Emotions are no longer emotions unless they’re extreme

Laughter is no longer just laughter. Excitement is no longer just excitement. Sadness is no longer just sadness. You must sprinkle your laughter with Emojis and ALL CAPITAL LETTERS and endless amounts of HAHAs. A simple “lol” will never cut it ever again. Conveying sadness involves some uncertain …’s, some sad faces, some sentences in all lowercase (to convey smallness, of course). It’s hard to trust someone who claims to actually be laughing when they only type “lol.” Nobody believes you when you simply say that you’re laughing. You now must prove it.

But what if something is ridiculously gut-splittingly funny? I’ve wasted HAHA for something funny but not funny enough to be ridiculous and gut-splitting, so I’ve prematurely set my laughter bar too high. Now, when I’m laughing hysterically, I don’t have many options except to be really annoying and say HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA about a million times, and this takes a lot of energy. Ugh, texting.

This might seem to apply to instant messaging as well, but with instant messaging I can easily convey my excitement for something via a constant flow of instant, real-time IMs. I simply cannot do that for texting (see #9).

8. It has caused greetings to become a thing of the past

Starting your conversation with something like “Hey,” “Hello,” “Hi,” or any variation of “Normal Greeting” is the biggest buzz kill. To be considered interesting and/or worth responding to, we have to think of a reason to text someone – a silly observation, a random thought, a funny memory. It is fundamentally bizarre if I text someone with a simple “Hi,” even if I really do just want to say hi and talk without having anything to say yet.

Along the same lines, texting conversations only end with cliffhangers. Nobody ever says “Goodbye.” I have one friend that actually makes a point to say goodbye when she is ending a texting conversation, and it confuses everyone. It’s more normal to just stop responding, we all say. But she’s probably a better person than all of us because we know when we’re done talking to her. She respectfully picks up and leaves the conversation like one would in real life.

Not saying goodbye makes us wonder if a conversation is actually over. Without a goodbye, what designates the end of a conversation? An Emoji? The amount of hours gone without a response? Because just when you think a conversation is over, you get a response two hours later. Texting is messing up the basic dynamics of greetings and departures.

9. It makes us insecure about having more than one thought

What is the #1 No-No of texting? Double texting. The evils of double texting are rooted back to the days where text messages were not set up like an Instant Message like they are on smartphones today. Before smartphones, if someone double texted you, it was absolutely the most irritating thing for two reasons: 1) it disrupted the flow of the current message you were reading and 2) you couldn’t view the follow up message and connect it immediately to the previous one. You had to exit out of the current message and go back into your Messages folder on your phone, and then piece together the two messages manually. So much work.

Now, because nothing is worse than a blue bubble to white bubble ratio of 3:1, double texting has taken on a new meaning. Once you send one text, you better hope that you have nothing more to contribute to that part of the conversation because then you will seem too excited, or too annoying, or too pushy. When we double text, we feel like the recipient becomes irritated with us. Double texting implies that we are more excited to talk to someone than they are to talk to us because we’re giving more ideas and contributing more to the conversation – and who wants to be perceived as more excited than another person? It has made us insecure to put forth a second thought. This is what texting has done to us.

10. It is becoming unnecessary

As technology progresses, texting is slowly becoming more and more unnecessary. All it does is give us another way to interact with others with a lot of added nuances. That’s literally it.

And frankly, we need another way to interact with others like we need a bullet through our heads: not at ALL. TC mark

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