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ArgueRants #19: Texting

Posted by sean berry on January 7, 2012 at 3:40 PM

Do you remember the days when you would call someone, leave a message on their answering machine and then wait an undisclosed amount of time for a call back? Believe it or not there was a day when people didn’t always have their phone on them and sometimes I think back on those days with nostalgic longing. Around the time that cell phones started gaining headway, instant messaging was also getting bigger and it was only a matter of time before the two merged into one via texting. The written word is certainly far from its end, though the paper medium itself is slowly being phased out.

We are social creatures and with the advancement of technology also comes the advancement in how we talk to one another. With satellites beaming our conversations back and forth to one another, we are becoming increasingly linked in an almost hive mind-esque fashion. How will instant communication change us as a whole though and is instant always better?

As with any issue, it seems that the benefits of cell phones and texting rely heavily on the user. People in today’s world are privy to a host of new technologies that can meet all kinds of individual needs and for some texting is a great way to communicate because it’s fast, to the point, and non-invasive. Many people prefer to text bad news or to ask uncomfortable questions because doing it face to face is just too awkward. There is also the group of people who just don’t like to talk that much on the phone, so it’s certainly a convenience if someone needs to get a message across to type it out then send it off. With a new advancement in technology there comes a loss and though the words we send can go to the recipient with one meaning, they can be received and interpreted completely different.

My step father use to always say to me, “it’s not what you say but how you say it” and it really is true. A word’s true interpretation is not the word’s definition itself but in and of the context and tone in which it was delivered. The word asshole can be said with affection and it can be spoken with hate. Now if you call someone an asshole during a playful conversation, the tone is evident and so is the look upon your face when you say it, which tells the listener that you mean the term in jest. If you type a similar sentiment in a text and send it, the person may not necessarily take it as such and these misinterpretations can be commonplace in the texting realm. Let’s face it: every day conversation between peers and loved ones is anything but elegant and complete as we speak in fragments, tell inside jokes, put inflections on certain words and juxtapose emotions and meaning.

I realize that I am using the term instant to describe texting but as we have all found out at one time or another, sometimes when we send something, it doesn’t mean it has actually gone through to the other person right away. I have sent my girlfriend many texts only to find hours later that she has not received any of them, which has caused arguments because I’m wondering why she isn’t answering me when she hasn't in fact received a question or comment to answer. So because the technology offers us something, we can often take it literally and because of such some unspoken laws about inter-texting dynamics have come about. It is easier for people to understand someone doesn't have the time to call you back, but with a text (though it is informal) a fast reply is far more expected as it takes so little time to answer and doesn’t require an individual’s full attention.

Our way of life may perhaps be making us more impatient people as it seems a lot of the technologies in play serve to speed up life or certain aspects of it. Why bake all day when you can go through the drive thru? Why wait in line for a bank teller when you can hit the ATM? Why look through a pile of books when you can Google search the info you want? If there is something that you don’t like to do, chances are someone out there is looking for a way to make it easier for you to fill their own pockets. Why reach out and touch someone when you can send them a short message instantly? The very lines and thoughts that bind us together are becoming digitized and how soon will it be that the bulk of what we say to one another is just raw digital data being sent back and forth?

Being an avid texter and a writer, I love the advantage of being able to think out what I say before I actually say it, which doesn’t seem to happen a lot in a normal conversation. I do find it interesting how we are so liable to being misunderstood and how sometimes a simple phrase spoken seems somehow hard to understand when it is written out. I am seeing video chatting more and more and I know that will certainly trump texting in the far off future, but I think for now people enjoy the comfort we have from behind a tiny screen. Each of us is peering through our little portals of communication keeping an eye on our kingdoms and our ears ever ready to detect the tell tale sign of a text tone. On an end note: if you hate texting, prepare to be increasingly annoyed as people get better phones and discover the advantages of it, though keep in mind something else will take its place slowly and there will be new elements to adapt to once again.

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Categories: ArgueRants

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