I am one of those few 20-somethings who would prefer a simple Samsung model over an iPhone or Blackberry when shopping at AT&T. And yes, I do get the odd stare from the sales associate who isn’t sure why I wouldn’t pine for that touchscreen. I typically shrug and convey how I prefer to keep it simple, and will gladly purchase a phone that has an ideal keyboard for texting.
Texting has become an everyday facet of our lives. The feature serves as a platform that absolutely allows us to stay connected to others with instant communication. However, there is something to be said about the ways in which it has the potential to diminish our social skills, if we choose to allow it to do so.
Texting has the ability to reinforce ineffective communication. Individuals can ‘hide behind a screen’ to escape confrontation in friendships or romantic relationships.
A 2007 article in the Washington Post (“Hey, You’re Breaking Up on Me!”), discusses how “singles can avoid direct confrontation by crafting ‘Dear John/Jane’ letters using advanced technology.” Bernard Guerney Jr., founder of the National Institute of Relationship Enhancement, says part of what’s occurring with texting is that people can use it when they lack the courage to face certain predicaments. This notion may be sending the wrong message, ‘no pun intended.’
“You grow some when you face things, and I think you lose something when you have to resort to tricky things and not confront people about things that are intimately important,” Guerney said. Texting could enhance avoidant tendencies and become an ‘easy way out’ for those who wish to ignore unpleasant or awkward situations, or ignore them altogether. But it’s left up to the individual to decide if they want to give into these more ‘cowardly’ methods.
“I just think people blame objects and things instead of taking responsibility for their own actions and behavior,” holistic health coach Kelly O’Leary said. “It’s not the cell phone’s fault that you chose to text in slang and whatnot instead of picking up the phone and calling someone or meeting them in person. That’s your decision to make. That says a lot about your character, not the technology.”
Texting also is impersonal. Emotional sentiments are expressed through typing, without clues such as tone of voice, facial expressions and body language. It’s probably more effective to have an intimate conversation in person if possible. However, texting provides an ‘out,’ even for the guys who’d rather not make that phone call to ask a girl on a date.
Psychologist and sociologist Sherry Turkle recently broadcast a talk entitled “Connected, but Alone?” She argues that our technological devices are redefining human connection. “We have conversations with each other to learn how to have conversations with ourselves,” she said. Texting cannot serve as a substitute for a ‘meaningful connection,’ a connection that is much better formed when you spend the day with someone, where you can really get to know them on a deeper level.
Turkle also suggests that connection ironically yields isolation. Aside from taking yourself out of the present moment, “you can end up hiding from each other even as we all are constantly connected to each other.” In an age of advanced technology, many don’t wish to spend ‘alone time’ with themselves, but that solitude is needed in order to form attachments with others.
So does texting have the potential to hinder our social skills? Perhaps. The temptation is there, but it’s up to us to decide how to use it.