Life, Professional, Technology

The Good, The Bad, and The Texting

I can’t think of many people who would disagree with the idea that mobile phones have changed the way that we go about our daily lives.  What some might argue, adamantly at that too, is whether or not it was a good change or not.  Now pay attention. I’m not talking about smart phones here, just plain old mobile phone technology.  This is not about having instant access to the world far beyond your immediate settings.  No, this about the way in which we now communicate.  I firmly believe that humans are social creatures at their core.  I don’t care how much of a recluse one may be, all humans need other humans to thrive.  Part of that social contact is communicating with others, and more of that communication comes from components other than the actual words we say.  Then why does it seem like the vast majority of today’s daily communication between people is accomplished through texting?  We utilize a mode of communication that is as far from personal contact as possible to complete most, if not all, our interpersonal communication.

Think of the old example of how we sometime speak to our pets.  They have no way to comprehend what we are actually saying to them, but man can they read our body language and vocal inflection.  I know some out there will point to verbal commands, but coming from some firsthand experience, you can teach your dog to sit in response to any command you want (including gibberish) other than the actual word ‘sit’ (in any language by the way).  We, as humans, give meaning to the actual word ‘sit’, not the dog.  The animal has just been conditioned to perform the behavior on that particular command.  As a matter of fact, one can say the nastiest things one can think of, and as long as you maintain positive body language and inflection in your voice, your pet will be happy as a clam.  On the other hand, you can use the most positive meaning words in the angriest voice you can muster while waving your hands around sporadically, and the animal will cower in the corner.

Texting is almost the opposite of this idea though.  What you get on your phone is not body language or vocal inflection but just words.  All the clues that we use to tell if someone is angry, sad, happy, or even sarcastic is missing, and our brains just can’t comprehend that kind of communication.  Now, what about written letters or even a blog post like this one?  Why can we grasp these types of communication with more ease than a text?  Those same components of communication are missing, but the biggest difference is in the length.  As I write this post, I can frame my thoughts better, use punctuation, and even add side comments to help you understand my intended meaning to the words you are visually processing.  All these techniques allow me to convey a little more nonverbal context to my message.  Texting on the other hand is meant to be short and quick.  That’s the point right?  Original texting was limited to a fixed number of characters and thus came the development of abbreviations like lol, brb, or awu.  That’s all gibberish (especially the last – at least I hope it is) without extra meaning given by the reader.  The shorter and more obscure the text, the more our brains start to short-circuit and fill in the gaps automatically.

I feel like more relationships nowadays have ended because of miscommunication derived from texts not ‘coming across’ like they were intended.  Why does do so many problems, both personally and professionally, result from sending such a quick text message?  Well, sorry to tell you this, but it’s all you not me.  That’s right, you create the problem yourself when you read the message.  Try reading this.

The dishes aren’t done

Ok.  How did you read that?  Was I angry that the dishes weren’t done, or was I questioning whether the acting of doing the dishes was done or not?  How about being a smart ass regarding not doing the dishes?  Can’t tell for sure, can you?  Truthfully I was just stating that I haven’t got around to doing the dishes.  You as the reader put most of the non-written meaning behind each and every text you receive.

Armed with this perspective, what can we do to prevent this from happening?  Well, when it’s important or maybe you aren’t sure about the actually meaning, try making a call (you know your phone can do that too, right?) or even dropping by to talk in person.  Is it really that hard to do?  I mean, one simple change (a step back to some maybe), can fix a plethora of interpersonal problems, right?

For further consideration regarding your cell phone usage, take a look at this interesting video on cell phone etiquette.  I know it made me think two about how I handle my cell phone daily.

Addiction to Technology is Ruining Lives – Simon Sinek on Inside Quest
Posted on YouTube by Andre White

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