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Texting is a very fast form of communicating with others. It consists of brief messages often typed in abbreviations known as text speak. Though it delivers thoughts with lightning speed, those who believe it is as, if not more effective than face to face conversations have their heads in the sand. Whether you are meeting someone for the first time or conversing with an old friend, face to face interactions have superior quality. Facial expressions can be seen, voice inflections heard and body language interpreted. Valuable verbal and nonverbal information essential to human interactions is lost in text messaging. In person conversations are self regulating while the silent nature of text messaging is not. Many young people text constantly no matter where they are or who they are with; hence, they are in a perpetual state of distraction and are unable to maintain focus beyond the next text.
There is more to communication than sending and receiving bits of abbreviated text. Conveying emotions and feelings along with conversation adds depth and aids in interpreting meaning beyond words on a screen. Further, face to face communication allows for body language and facial expressions to enliven and enrich conversations and one another. Texting relies on emoticons (little faces that show happy, sad etc) which are a sorry replacement for human gestures and emotion.
The purpose of interpersonal communication is to encourage the listener to fully grasp the thoughts and ideas the communicator wishes to convey. Though texting enhances access to others, it limits the ability to personally connect with others and bond. The more people choose texting to connect with others over interpersonal communication the further apart they become.
In face to face communication people do not rely solely on words to understand what is being said. Intrapersonal communication is 7% spoken words, 38% tone of voice and 55% non verbal. This means that 93% of communication is determined by nonverbal cues; therefore, if text messaging is the chosen means of communication 93% of the intended message is lost. (http://www.dest.gov.au/nwt/hospitality/comm_non.htm, Non Verbal Communication (body language).
There are six types of nonverbal communication: facial expressions, eye contact, gestures, posture and body orientation, proximity and paralinguistics . Facial expressions confirm how information is being received and delivered. Smiling for example is an expression that is welcoming while scowling is the opposite. Eye contact is extremely important in that consistent (not starring or ogling) eye contact during a conversation makes the listener feel relevant, and heard. Gesturing can insert warmth, connectedness, and personality into one on one or group communications. Posture and body orientation (how you stand, walk and sit), sends a multitude of messages. A person who is shy or nervous may convey it by slouching or turning slightly away; contrarily, a confident, relaxed individual will exhibit a relaxed posture and face their conversation partner or group. Proximity is the distance an individual places between themselves and the person they are conversing with. If too much distance is placed between individuals it signals that one or both is uncomfortable with the conversation. It can also become uncomfortable if someone (particularly if they are not a friend) stands too close or touches too often. How your voice sounds is paralinguistics. Tone, inflection, pitch, volume and rhythm give richness and depth to a conversation. Paralinguistics can also reveal when there is a hidden or different meaning than the stated words suggest (http://www.focused-momentum-lifecoach.com/types-of-nonverbal-communication.html, The Six types of Nonverbal Communication).
Computers and text messaging sources were originally created for data, not for the intricacies of human interactions. Yet, over seventy five billion text messages are exchanged each month in the United States. The majority of the texters are between the ages of thirteen and seventeen and each average two thousand, two hundred seventy-two texts a month. An extreme example was reported by Greg Hardesty, a reporter who wrote a story about his thirteen year old daughter racking up 14,528 texts in one month. After the story appeared in the Orange County Register, his daughters' volume rose to 24,000 messages. Her parents took no action until after her grades fell precipitously. Thankfully, they took her phone away. (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/26/health/26teen.html, The New York Times, by Katie Hafner, May25,2009).
David E. Meyer, a psychology professor at the University of Michigan said that texting is "a huge cultural phenomenon with huge down-the-road consequences" (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/living/2008774199_texting23.html, O.M.G.! Teens' lives being taken over by texting, By Donna George, The Washington Post, February 23, 2009).
Some educators believe those consequences are currently surfacing in the classroom. They are
seeing declines in word choices, spelling, the complexities of writing and an inability to stay focused. Further, educators are seeing text speak (LOL-laugh out loud, THX- thanks, L8R-later) and emoticons show up in assigned papers as well as a growing absence of punctuation (http://www.wsbt.com/news/national/40499712.html, Constantly Texting Teens Worry Parents, Experts, March1, 2009, Rockville Md. (AP). Many educators (and parents) are concerned about teens seeming inability to stay focused and tuned in to the world around them. Their attention is constantly divided between where they are at and what they are supposed to be doing and the next text message. It takes self-discipline to pay attention and learn and self discipline is not a character avid texters display.
Texting distracts from the here and now of daily activities and interactions with others. A person is often exchanging texts with four or more individuals while trying to converse with others around them. Neither the in person or texting group has the full attention of the texter. The focus of the texters attention is constantly being pulled in several directions so no one benefits from the exchange. The same holds true in the classroom. To master the knowledge being presented, the full attention of the learner is required; therefore, a student who spends class time sending and receiving texts cannot be receiving the information required for learning. In the long run, it is the texter who loses from this addictive and rude behavior. Relationships both inside and outside the family deteriorate as does the quality and quantity of their education.
Texting is undermining communication skills and therefore, human interactions. Texting is producing a generation that is self absorbed, distracted, unable to communicate in the here and now effectively and have no sense of propriety. Communication that is void of nonverbal cues and tones, laced with abbreviated speech which lacks grammar and punctuation and consumes ones' time from dawn to dusk, clearly is destined to severely negatively impact the future of intrapersonal communication and interactions. Texting is inferior to communicating face to face and enjoying the richness and depth that language (verbal and nonverbal) provides.