Saturday, May 30, 2009

Texting: The New Anti-Social Problem?

I'm not hip. I'm not in the loop. Therefore, I have never in my life sent a text. I know, I know, how have I survived? How do I know what's going on in the outside world? Well, I have these little devices called a computer and a telephone. Yes, my cell phone has texting capabilities--I only know because I've received some texts from one of my girlfriends.
Yes, I know about how much people want to constantly communicate, but of course, not by ever hearing or seeing each other. When my friend got divorced, she was eventually thrust into the world of dating once again. While we were visiting one day, her phone was going berserk. It wasn't phone calls though, it was the new way to stay in touch--texting. Of course I was curious..
Me: "Why is your phone vibrating all the time? You must have a million people trying to reach you."
Her: "No, it's just people texting me."
Me: "Why would they do that when it takes so much time? Isn't it a lot easier to call?"
Her: "Well, once you've done it for a while, it's actually pretty fast. This is how people communicate these days; they text. No one calls each other much."
Me: (baffled) "It seems like a lot of work to me..."
I'm still baffled by the cell phone/twitter/texting phenomenon. Since cell phones became available to the average Joe about 15 years ago, it seems that everywhere you go people are on their cell phones. Whether they are talking or texting, it seems that we Americans feel the need to be constantly in touch. What is it that is sooo important that we couldn't say it from the privacy of our homes? What is that text that we absolutely can't wait to send off that is causing us to drive extremely slow and without looking at the road/cars/pedestrians in front of us? I don't know, I guess I must be just out of it.
However, haven't you started wondering about the stats on this crazy addiction? There's a great NY Times piece here that talks all about it. Some of the interesting info I found was:

Dr. Martin Joffe, a pediatrician in Greenbrae, Calif., recently surveyed students at two local high schools and said he found that many were routinely sending hundreds of texts every day.
“That’s one every few minutes,” he said. “Then you hear that these kids are responding to texts late at night. That’s going to cause sleep issues in an age group that’s already plagued with sleep issues.”


“Among the jobs of adolescence are to separate from your parents, and to find the peace and quiet to become the person you decide you want to be,” she said. “Texting hits directly at both those jobs.”
Psychologists expect to see teenagers break free from their parents as they grow into autonomous adults, Professor Turkle went on, “but if technology makes something like staying in touch very, very easy, that’s harder to do; now you have adolescents who are texting their mothers 15 times a day, asking things like, ‘Should I get the red shoes or the blue shoes?’ ”

Of course the physical problems too:

Texting may also be taking a toll on teenagers’ thumbs. Annie Wagner, 15, a ninth-grade honor student in Bethesda, Md., used to text on her tiny LG phone as fast as she typed on a regular keyboard. A few months ago, she noticed a painful cramping in her thumbs. (Lately, she has been using the iPhone she got for her 15th birthday, and she says texting is slower and less painful.)
Peter W. Johnson, an associate professor of environmental and occupational health sciences at the University of Washington, said it was too early to tell whether this kind of stress is damaging. But he added,
“Based on our experiences with computer users, we know intensive repetitive use of the upper extremities can lead to musculoskeletal disorders, so we have some reason to be concerned that too much texting could lead to temporary or permanent damage to the thumbs.”

I guess as much as I'm baffled by the whole situation, I'm also a little disturbed. What's it going to be like when my daughter enters this stage? I don't want to be texting her a million times a day to find her. I've heard other adults who interact with teenagers say that the only way they can reach them is through texting--that they don't respond to phone calls or email anymore. Wow. Isn't it sad that technology that is supposed to be bringing us closer to each other is actually causing a bit of a wedge in the way that interact? I mean, I don't feel comfortable calling you, but I will take a few seconds to send you some text?

As great as this internet/wireless situation is, there are some serious downsides to it as well. I recently read this great talk by David A. Bednar where he shared this story:

Ric Hoogestraat is “a burly [53-year-old] man with a long gray ponytail, thick sideburns and a salt-and-pepper handlebar mustache. … [Ric spends] six hours a night and often 14 hours at a stretch on weekends as Dutch Hoorenbeek, his six-foot-nine, muscular … cyber-self. The character looks like a younger, physically enhanced version of [Ric].”
“[He] sits at his computer with the blinds drawn. … While his wife, Sue, watches television in the living room, Mr. Hoogestraat chats online with what appears on the screen to be a tall, slim redhead.
“He’s never met the woman outside of the computer world of Second Life, a well-chronicled digital fantasyland. … He’s never so much as spoken to her on the telephone. But their relationship has taken on curiously real dimensions. They own two dogs, pay a mortgage together and spend hours [in their cyberspace world] shopping at the mall and taking long motorcycle rides. … Their bond is so strong that three months ago, Mr. Hoogestraat asked Janet Spielman, the 38-year-old Canadian woman who controls the redhead, to become his virtual wife.
“The woman he’s legally wed to is not amused. ‘It’s really devastating,’ says Sue Hoogestraat, … who has been married to Mr. Hoogestraat for seven months.”

Isn't it super tricky that to think that when we're texting we're really being social, but in all actuality:
"important opportunities are missed for developing and improving interpersonal skills, for laughing and crying together, and for creating a rich and enduring bond of emotional intimacy. Progressively, seemingly innocent entertainment can become a form of pernicious enslavement.
To feel the warmth of a tender hug from an eternal companion or to see the sincerity in the eyes of another person as testimony is shared—all of these things experienced as they really are through the instrument of our physical body—could be sacrificed for a high fidelity fantasy that has no lasting value." (Bednar's talk again)

I just know that for me, there's something so dangerous about anything that is so addictive that it causes us physical pain and prevents us from making decisions on our own. I know it is certainly something that has value in many instances, but I just have to wonder, where's it going to lead?


Mama Corleone said...

My husband works for Verizon. He has soooo many awful stories about parents getting HUGE bills because their child texts too much. Or the child is flunking because they text all through school. In fact, he just had a lady come in who's daughter had a 500 a month text plan. The daughter had sent/received 19,000 texts in one month so of course she was charged out the nose.

I do text, a few times a day, but it is crazy to me how much people use it. Parents need to be aware of how huge this can be, and also aware that some cell phone carriers can set limits on the phones. For example, my youngest brother has a limit. His phone will not send or receive after 10 pm. Before that, he was up all night long texting! It's crazy.

Eldredge Family said...

My 15 year old sister texts all every every day. Middle of the night all night. My Mom was actually said she missed the days when she would have to yell at me to get off the phone! I have one sister that when her and her hubby get into a fight the email each other back and fourth. What ever happened to talking face to face to get things worked out? I am terrified to drive with the way people are on cell phones. Its crazy.

Marisa said...

I TOTALLY agree and also have never texted in my life. We have already decided that our kids won't have cell phones at all. They'll be the equivalent of those weird kids that didn't have a TV, but we're the parents and we decide. When I was in highschool (10 years ago), we weren't allowed to have cell phones in class, what happened to that?

JenW said...

when i was in the high schools just a few years ago doing student teaching they weren't allowed to have phones and if we saw them, we took them away. it's just amazing. i'm thinking of not letting the kids have phones either, what does the third/fourth grader need with a phone, that i saw walking to the bus, talking on one in the early morning hours...didn't you JUST leave your mother...who else are you talking to before you get on the bus and SEE that person???? insane. i don't twitter or tweet, i don't facebook...i do text maybe 3-4 times a day, but really only with kendall to tell him that the kids are....whatever they are or pick up milk.

rachel said...

I had ALL of these thoughts when I was listening to Elder Bednar's talk plus other crazy day dreams of my boys becoming virtual zombies and going into a harsh. cruel,cold and already heartless world. Seriously, Where is the love?? I would totally be against phones except with all of the crap that goes on in high school I want my boys equipped with a camera/phone/source of emergency communication, It's like having a witness you know in case the unthinkable happens. I guess at some point I am hoping my boys get a good moral compass where they can adapt and use what we've learned about bad habits, texting, pornography, idleness,etc. I hope. Thanks for the awesome post Audrey!
It's crazy what our kids are up against. Some things I am sure are coming that we don't even foresee.

Mariley Johnson said...

First of all, I have major issues with these young ones even having cell phones in the first place! 10 and 11 year olds for example should not have a cell phone of their own. I don't think they are necessary until you can at least drive. With that being said, i still don't have a cell phone!!
Second, ditto to all of your arguments!

DONNA J. said...

It's such a huge problem that the LDS Church Mission Department is concerned about new missionaries as they enter the mission training centers and the the actual mission field. These young missionaries are lacking necessary social skills to keep and carry on small talk and every day conversation. This is forcing the MTC's to spend time on teaching "conversation" when it really should be taught at home before the missionary submits his/her papers.

And, the kids in the Young Men and Womens programs that would never utter a vulgar word can text derivative of these words all day long and never think a thing about it. It's a serious problem. I know that Young Womens General Presidency is very concerned that young women are not making it to the temple...and the statistic is climbing. The church thinks it has a lot to do with texting and the content contained there in.

Great post, Audrey!

Tiffini said...

I'm right there with ya! I don't text either! ... you saw how long it took me to start my blog. I'm just not interested in the newest and latest technology. I feel like it has turned us into an even more individualistic, egotistic, self-centered, antisocial society. Nope, not interested!

Jessica Martiele said...

I, too, am one of the last remaining humans without a cell phone. My children (until they are dating age, and then only the 4-number phones, and only while on dates!) will not have them AT ALL. NO ONE is so important that they must always be reachable; talk about self-agrandizing! Also, who WANTS to be THAT connected? That's just one more reason I gave up Facebook and don't participate in other online social networking communities. (I tried 2nd life to see what all the rage was about, and when I'd invested 4 hours in it one day - to the dereliction of my household duties - I deleted the program from my computer and haven't touched it since!) I second everything you and your commentors have said and am really glad you thought to say something about it because it really does make me nuts! Go, Audrey!

Lauren and Trevor said...

We don't even have cell phones so your technological jargon was way over our heads.

Erica said...

Thanks for calling me out on being the crappiest commenter ever. I suck. I can admit this. Still, I am totally addicted to reading your blog. Does that count? No, probably makes me even worse. Dangit. Thanks for checking in on me. I am venturing to say I have a good two weeks before 'lil miss arrives. What can I say? Babies like living in me.
Oh, and I suck at texting. But it is the only way half of my siblings will communicate with me so I embarassingly forge my way through it.

Melinda said...

crazy stuff-- recently my husbands cell phone shattered and so I gave him mine (like 2 weeks ago) it is crazy that I really haven't missed it-- I guess I am in the middle ages as well-- I would much rather meet in person than call or text.

steve said...

Old people just don't understand. . .

Minharos said...

Macey (7) just asked if she can have her own cell phone so we can call her and tell her to come home. Uh, no. We offered her a watch, and reminded her that we always ask where she's going for a reason. What happened to knowing your neighbors/ kid's friend's moms and looking out for each others kids. If I need my kids I can either walk around the block or call their friend's house. That's good enough for me!

I've always hated making phone calls, but I'm not much of a texter either. I'll text Levy if he's in the library or one friend that I have extremely awkward phone chats with. Other than that it's email for taking care of business.

Cari.Ryan Florence said...

My big issue with kids texting is that they feel more comfortable saying things in texts that they wouldn't say in person. Also I've seen the kids in the mall who aren't even talking to their friends because they're all too busy texting other people... so weird!!!

I just don't like the idea of my kids being able to be reached 24/7 by their friends/boyfriends. I swear my kids will not have cell phones until their at dating age, and even then I won't pay for texting. My kids will have to communicate the old fashioned way... talking!

JLJ said...

THANK YOU!!!! I feel so validated reading this post and all the comments. I thought I was the only one out there not texting - and actually not owning a cell phone. I'm sure there are times when texting would be convenient, but most people do not only use texting for those purposes. It is scary how much privacy people are willing to give up. Incidentally my sister also just went through divorce and is now a huge texter. I spent the weekend with her at women's conference and she was texting the entire time! The basest argument against texting (because there are many more) is that it is rude!! What happened to manners? That is one of my problems with cell phones too. Answering phone calls or receiving texts while in a conversation or when other people are around drives me crazy. There is no courtesy anymore. Great post.

wackywilsons said...


I was wondering why you didn't text me back! ha ha

I think it's nice to be able to say a quick, "HI" without having to go into a deep conversation, you know?

When can we get together then if you won't text me back??? email or call! :)

Anonymous said...

normally i'd agree with all of you, except what does the mormon david bednar know? he has no credibility, he's just blowing smoke at things he thinks should be banned and coercing people into believing it. but yes, i think technology in general is causing a rift in communication that can only be fixed by hearing the voice of a person or seeing their emotions.