Professor's House

The Downside of Texting & Facebook

The method of our electronic communication is quickly changing the face of common etiquette. Just a few short years ago, people sent out party invitations, mailed out thank you notes, completed birth announcements, and even published obituaries in the newspaper. Today, all of this can be handled by text, Facebook or even Twitter. In fact, the capability to send out mass information quickly through text and social medias like Facebook have all but put an end to the need to purchase pens or learn how to write properly.

But have we as a society gone too far?

It wasn’t that long ago that people started complaining about calling for customer service only to get in touch with an automated system in place of a live human to help you. Now, that is a complaint of old and we are lucky to be able to contact customer service at all unless through the brainchild of electronic communication. Just for fun, try looking for a phone number on a company’s website and you will find that more than likely you are constantly redirected from one form of electronic media to another. And if you do get a phone number, there is likely a message that says your complaint or problem can be handled more efficiently online.

The extent of texting also brings to mind the question of how manners are changing. Suddenly your teenager receiving a $100 bill in the mail from Grandma is now texting, “TKS G-MAMA” in some sort of twisted code that defies the rules of spelling, grammar, and common niceties. Is texting an appropriate venue for getting and staying in touch with loved ones? Would you send someone a text that a person has passed away, or simply make a post on Facebook to announce your child’s birth? Apparently, today – the answer is yes. The funny thing is that as widespread and common as texting and facebooking has become, even the spell check on this very document is continuously underlying and flagging the words, texting and facebook as grammatically incorrect.

The real question is whether or not we, as a society, are losing the ability to communicate with one another through words, gestures, and honest interactions. By sending a text, and email or posting on Facebook – we are able to stay detached from the communication, often creating an alter ego or false persona, and remaining social – while remaining distant from real life contact. So while the social needs are met by using such a blank check for communicating with people – the physical needs are not. In fact, most people would have to admit that is down right rude, arrogant, and ridiculous to share certain information with others through text or social media sites. Yet, most people do it anyways. Why?

The bottom line is that texting and social media has replaced human interaction. Go to Joe Blue High school in any town USA and you will find 100 teenagers with busy fingers, heads staring down to a tiny computer screen, distracted to the point of danger communicating with friends. Sadly, the ‘real’ people in their presence are all but ignored. You have to wonder if these teens are missing an important part of life, the real eye-to-eye communication with another person. In fact, in today’s teen culture, it is perfectly acceptable for teens to ask one another on a date, to something as important as prom, or to make plans with another completely by text messaging. And status updates on social media sites are often done in code, in a language created specifically by teens with the intent on deceiving adults.

So what happens when these same teens go on their first job interview?

How many kids have you seen working at fast food restaurants, taking your orders while texting or checking Facebook. In a recent survey by Harris Interactive, it was revealed that 47% of all teens can text with their eyes closed and feel that their lives would end if they did not have access to their cell phone or computer. Four out of every five teens carry some sort of wireless device, often called a PDA and 67% believe that IT is the key to their happiness and social status. The teens in this survey also admitted to spending more time texting and using social media to interact with friends and family than they did actually talking. Of the one billion texts sent wirelessly each day, teens are responsible for around 42% of them.

Is sitting down and having a conversation becoming a lost art?

The sad part is that adults too are becoming guilty of using text messages and social media sites like Facebook to interact with friends. In a life that many feel has become busier than ever, texting and Facebook offer people the opportunity to be instantly connected to multiple people, sharing large pieces of information quickly. The best part is that it can be done while they are doing other things, which is seen as a time saver among other things.

The sad part however, is that with all these social interactions taking place wirelessly through the wonder of technology – people are losing the intimacy of face-to-face relationships. While the computer age enables us to share information, it does not enable us to revel in the human connectedness that only physically speaking to one another offers.

Plus, in numerous instances text messaging is just plain rude and uncalled for.

What do you think of the following situations?

How many times have you had a conversation with someone and they were either reading or constructing a text? Few of us would accept a regular voice call if we were in a face to face conversation, yet millions of people will text in the midst of real life conversation with others.

Is asking someone out, breaking up with them, changing plans, or dealing with issues of the heart truly appropriate via text? Most people say that it isn’t, and in fact believe that as a texting courtesy some things should be handled with voice calls, yet every day millions of people are broken hearted by a text message or facebook status update.

Have you ever sent a text not to get a response? Is it appropriate to expect one? The truth is there aren’t really any ‘rules’ in place when it comes to responding to texts. Many people simply set their phones to automatically inform them when a message is received. But isn’t a simple thanks, okay, yes, or no still just common courtesy?

How should interpret one another’s tone in a text message or Facebook update. Is it the rule of thumb to insert a smiley face, wink, or even mad face to express emotion? And furthermore should a text message ‘sound’ wrong – should it be readdressed through text. Bottom line is a text is nothing but typed words and real life communication deduces a lot from tone and expression.

If any top employer were to receive a text from a newly hired teen in the hodge-podge lingo that is texting, would they be wrong to assume the kid had no idea about proper grammar or spelling? Honestly, text messages and computer code lingo is difficult to decipher – especially for those not accustomed to it. Is it even normal, allowed or socially responsible?

IDK, ttyl!

Text messaging has also replaced people’s common sense about when to contact one another. Receiving a text message at 4am or 10pm seems to be considered okay by today’s standards. But is it?

And of course, are there any rules about when you should call. If you are announcing news that is traumatic, life altering, extremely personal – should it even be done by text? While you can certainly send out lots of texts at once rather than calling people on the phone, aren’t there some instances where a voice call is just appropriate?

The worst thing about texting, or any other type of social media is that far too many people seem to realize that the devices have an off button. In a world that is super busy, it seems to only make more sense that we take the time to be completely off, unreachable and relaxed. Yet very rarely do people set down their phones. Today, it is estimated that around 42 million people are ‘addicted’ to social media sites and feel the effects of physical withdrawal when forced to give it up. And most of us have become completely distracted, so that even when we are with our families, enjoying down time – we are hunkering toward PDA’s to stay updated.

The truth is it has all gone too far.

While it is pleasant, even handy to have all this technology at our fingertips – it also should not be used to replace or avoid human interaction. The sad part is that with all this access to communicative devices – people are often more distracted and more disconnected than ever. The best way to manage texting and Facebooking in your own life is to decide exactly how it will be used, and how will you accept it from others. If someone will not be your friend because you don’t accept texts, or because you refuse to get on Facebook – chances are they wouldn’t offer much to your life anyway. At least not anything you could understand….

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