Does anyone ever want to chat on the phone anymore? It seems everyone prefers texting over talking these days. So much so, that states had to enact laws to prevent people from texting while driving their cars. Turns out that it’s not so simple to keep your eyes on the road while you’re furiously typing back a nasty response to your significant other, probably because he responded with something like, “OK,” after you poured your heart out in a multi-message catharsis.
Text Messaging is a Major Form of Communication
Text messaging, for having its share of pros and cons, is certainly a popular form of communication. And it’s only growing in popularity – in fact, it’s safe to say that text messages comprise a large chunk of the world’s total data, which is undergoing an explosion of its own. In 2000, there were about 14 billion texts sent every month. Yes: 14 billion. Per month. Impressed? In 2010, that rate increased to 188 billion.
Schools are even beginning to allow smartphones in the classroom, with teachers finding unique and valuable ways to use it for learning purposes. With kids sneaking phones in and texting under their desks during class despite strict bans, some educators decided they weren’t going to fight it, so they might as well capitalize on it. And it’s showing some good results.
The funny thing is, text messaging is actually much older than you realize. It celebrated its 20th birthday in 2012. But you didn’t hear about anyone hiding in a closet sending text messages in 1992, let alone texting while driving.
Text Messaging Gets Its Own Language
Text messaging is so popular that it’s developed its own language. Through the trillions of text messages that have been sent over the past two decades, users have developed shorter abbreviated ways to say various words and acronyms for common phrases. Over time, certain abbreviations and acronyms have become widely accepted as the standard in the language of texting. Most text-messaging users understand terms such as:
- · Srsly (seriously)
- · ICAM (I couldn’t agree more.)
- · LOL (laughing out loud)
- · BRB (be right back)
- · BTW (by the way)
- · GR8 (great)
- · JK (just kidding)
There are hundreds – probably thousands – of examples. Due to the popularity of text messaging among kids and teens, there’s even a subculture within the subculture of commonly-used abbreviations teens have created in attempt to outwit their parents.
Is Texting Too Impersonal?
The problem with all of this is that it’s rather impersonal. You can’t hear the other person’s voice, making it much more difficult to interpret things like sarcasm that are easier to ascertain in a face-to-face conversation, or even over the phone. Texting basically removes the layer of communication that we get from facial expressions, body language and even the tone of your voice.
Text messaging tries to compensate for this with emoticons – or the use of punctuation and other symbols to represent various emotions that we’d be able to convey in person. The smiley face is probably the most widely used emoticon. But even these symbols lose their emotional, relationship-cultivating value over time. When there’s a smiley emoticon in every text message you send, to every person you text, it’s not quite as special.
Texting About Serious Stuff Might Doom Your Relationship
A study published in the Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy, conducted by Brigham Young University researchers Lori Schade and Jonathan Sandberg, finds that texting can have detrimental impacts on a relationship. This study evaluates couples in serious relationships (38 percent of the 276 couples included in the study), engaged couples (46 percent), and married couples (16 percent).
While expressing affection via text messaging tends to enhance relationships, there are a few things that have the opposite effect:
- · For men, frequent text messaging with a significant other in general is associated with lower relationship quality.
- · For women, texting to try to resolve disagreements or differences is associated with lower relationship quality. This is also true if women try to apologize via text message – or make decisions through text messaging.
Based on these findings, it seems as though couples should stick to the sweet and sappy I-heart-you texts and save the more serious are-we-getting-divorced discussions for an over-dinner chat. But as people become so accustomed to using an impersonal communication method like text messaging, those more serious discussions can become even more uncomfortable in person – sometimes, texting your frustrations is a cop-out.
It’s logical to assume that texting out your frustrations is a safer alternative. After all, if you can’t see your significant other rolling his eyes at you, you can’t get mad about it. But the likelihood is that you’re basing your perceptions on what you know – or think you know – his reactions will be. That can be a good thing or a bad thing. The mind can be a tricky thing when you’re angry, leading to all kinds of nonsense like irrational thoughts and false accusations.
Texting Might be Hazardous to Your Love Life
When you’re first getting into a relationship, texting can cause problems too, She Knows points out. Say a mutual friend set you up on a date or you met someone at a bar and your date is a few days away. When society relied on the telephone for this sort of thing, you may not have spoken prior to the date – neither one of you would be brave enough to initiate that phone call. But texting is a whole different ballgame, because, for some reason, it’s more casual.
So you spend a few days texting back and forth, and the other person is forming his own perception of you, but based on your words, not your actual personality. It’s so easy to build someone up in that situation to suit your own ideal image of a potential mate. It’s a real mood killer when you sit down at a table and have a real conversation, but you’re completely weirded out because the other person is not at all like the person you had in your head.
When it comes to relationships, text messaging is a tricky thing. But since it’s not going anywhere anytime soon, you might want to consider your texting frequency next time you’re having some relationship foibles. At the very least, you should probably steer clear of having major relationship-status discussions with your thumbs, and save the important stuff for pillow talk.