I am a “texter”. I admit it and in fact, texting is often a very efficient and convenient form of communicating. However, one day, while listening to a radio program about texting and the effects it is having on personal interactions, I began to reflect on how texting might be causing us to sacrifice the sacred art of oral communication.
Digital media allows us to communicate globally at amazingly rapid speed. It is truly astounding when you compare the immediacy with which we can share information for either personal or professional reasons to the “snail mail” era when it took days for the same information to be communicated. Despite the gain in speed of communication, we have lost the humanity in the way we communicate with each other. Indeed, the ubiquitous use of texting now extends even to communication between people who are in close proximity to one another, perhaps in the same room. People escape from eye contact and direct communication by hiding in their short, digital messages.
I recognize that there is an immediacy to texting that we find satisfying in our multitasking society. Yet I wonder, what do we sacrifice when we are consumed with texting throughout our day? We miss the nuances of conversation communicated through facial expressions and vocal changes. Furthermore, the impulsiveness of texting might allow you to say something to someone that you might not have if you had thought about it for a moment or if you could see the way the recipient was reacting to what you had said. Texting can lead to misunderstandings and miscommunication of information. Finally, oral communication is an art, and being able to tell a story with the appropriate intonation, to emphasize key words that help the narrative along, and to pause and phrase in order to build anticipation and suspense cannot be communicated in a text message. Yes, you can use capitalization and bolding when writing a text message, but it is not the same as the many nuances in your tone of voice.
What are the other perils of texting? The use of “techspeak” relies on homophones such as “gr8″ for “great” and “wud” for “would”. It does not use capital letters or periods to end a sentence. We have to be concerned that developing language, specifically spelling and grammar skills, are being corrupted. We now hear people communicating verbally in “techspeak” by saying “OMG” or “TTYL” (Oh My God and Talk To You Later). Articulation skills needed to communicate effectively are eroding. This is worrisome for younger generations who need to develop good speech habits; speech skills that are necessary later in life when these individuals enter the business world.
To be fair, texting can be a useful tool for someone who is shy, to reach out to someone whom they may be unwilling to approach in person for fear of rejection. It can be a more considerate form of communicating on a crowded train or bus so that other passengers are not bothered by your phone conversation. It can be a quick and efficient way of communicating essential information when you are pressed for time. For example, “Arriving on 5:45 train”.
Perhaps the solution to the texting problem is finding the right balance between using technology in an efficient and productive way while still preserving the art of verbal communication. Sometimes, we need to take the time to “unplug” and interact verbally so that we do not lose the subtleties of interpersonal communication. Perhaps instead of sacrificing the art of communication, we can enhance our ability to communicate with the well-used text message.