Thursday, November 13, 2014

Texting: Are We Using it for Too Much?

Texting: Something that has become second nature to our generation. Have a question? Text them. Want to make plans? Text them. Want to rant about someone in the room to a third party? Text them. However, texting is being utilized as the wrong medium to communicate far too often. In Thank You for Arguing, Jay Heinrichs states that texting is an ethos medium. Both pathos and logos are out of the picture. But, a possibly falsely represented pathos is slowly sneaking its way into the world of texting.

Yes, texting is a medium heavy with ethos. It helps you as a person identify yourself to others with exact locations. Parents can locate kids, coworkers can decide on a lunch spot, teenagers can decide who is driving for the night. Even some grandparents will use texting to keep in touch with their grand kids. But, I am seeing a world where texting is being used so often, and most of the time for the wrong reasons. A texter cannot evoke emotion over a message. Hence why there are emojis, shortcuts like LOL or ROFL, and the ellipsis (my favorite, since I'm a pretty sarcastic person). The younger generation (including us college kids) are trying to bypass these emotion indicators and try to make our messages sappy (or whatever emotion). However, there is no place for emotion in texting. Texting is such an abrupt way of communicating. A few words, send. A paragraph, send. The medium allows for spur of the moment communicating, something which can be dangerous if emotions get involved.

Here's a pretty decent example. Take a stereotypical teen couple. It seems like any couple anymore is constantly conversing, usually via text messaging. This constant communication usually includes sappy things like "I miss you" or "How are you feeling?" And there lies the problem. Teens are overusing texting to the point where emotion is trying to sneak its way in. Instead of ending conversations after plans for the night are established, they continue for hours about potentially emotional subjects. Emotion cannot be felt through words on a screen. Maybe the reader can guess the emotion trying be achieved, but it is only a guess. The reader cannot see the facial expressions of the sender nor the inflection in the sender's voice. Simply put, emotion does not belong in text messaging. All the teen couples who constantly communicate could possibly blame all the misunderstandings they encounter based on misinterpreted text messages.

Heinrich's writes that we should "go ahead and laugh at teenagers, but perhaps the rest of us could use more of this friendly gesturing." But, I disagree. Our world is struggling with the simple task of face-to-face communication. Friendly gesturing should not be limited to sending "hope you are having a good day" text messages. I've noticed how awkward our generation is with small talk. It's always a task to decide who is going to tell the hostess how many to be seated, to go ask a cashier a question, and even a task just to ask someone "excuse me."  When I worked in a retirement home in Omaha, I was fortunate enough to come out of my shell and become comfortable conversing and joking with the residents. However, each year a new crop of employees would come who I would train. The job itself wasn't difficult, but the social skills needed were more of a challenge than they should be. These kids I train would be constantly typing away to their friends or significant others on their phones before shift. But, as soon as we were on the dining room floor, those words that flowed so easy on the keyboard are nowhere to be found.

Is this the world we are living in now? Can we not connect emotionally with strangers unless they are behind a screen? It's easy for our generation to make matches on Tinder to spark relationships, but nearly impossible to go up and talk to someone new. We turn to texting (or even any new media) to express our feelings, yet sit silent when we really need to talk. Texting is a great tool, but emotion within text messaging is not welcome. It could potentially deteriorate our basic communication skills that are already sitting on life support.

Works Consulted:
Heinrichs, Jay. Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us about the Art of Persuasion. New York: Three Rivers, 2013. Print.

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