Sunday, July 16, 2017

IS TEXTING HURTING YOUR RELATIONSHIPS AND IS IT A TOXIC KILLER OF SOCIETAL HEALTH?

(The following article was written by Richard Rossi after surveying his thousands of friends from social media, and doing extensive research. Richard is indebted to his friends and relationship experts for their thoughts which are woven into this article on texting)
Is texting a harmless habit that helps us stay in touch?  Or is it a killer of real relationships and communication? By real relationships, I mean relationships that are communicative in the full range of paralanguage, or in other words, good, quality, caring, communicative, relationships. (Marteney,  Arguing Using Critical Thinking).

Excessive texting diminishes relationships by retarding language, therefore, we should use texting for minimal information.
Let's look at the decline of communication because of texting, examine the origins of texting, the negative effects, then the research and findings of experts, and lastly, state and refute opposing pro-texting arguments.

Texting has hurt communication and relationships by limiting us to short messages of 160 characters (Pine, SMS Character Limit). Now we have people who talk like cavemen in a few words and literate expression has been replaced with acronyms like lol, omg, etc...These preset emojis and acronyms discouragement personal uniqueness, creativity, and originality. The communication is not only shortened and truncated, but is often misinterpreted. Most experience another person getting upset with them over a text message that they took the wrong way. (Sheikh, Communication and Miscommunication)

When you text, you lose so much in translation, largely because there's no tone of voice, an important component, according to the text Arguing Using Critical Thinking. Then you wonder, "Were they kidding? Were they mad, Were they being rude?"  A big cover-all to potential misunderstandings is the ubiquitous "LOL", but that doesn't make the communication more eloquent. People should really just T-A-L-K if they want to communicate anything meaningful other than addresses, dates and times. (Russell, Stop Texting So Much)

Without facial expressions or vocal intonations, emotion and intent can be grossly misread by the recipient.  Technology has done a lot of good for us in making communication easier and instantaneous. But it has also spoiled a good lot of us.

Texting is one-dimensional. You can't hear the tone, you can't look into the eyes or see the body language and you certainly can't see the love.  Relationship experts refer to this as "paralanguage."  

"The exchange of messages through non-linguistic means, including: kinesics (body language), facial expressions, eye contact, clothing and physical appearance, tactile communication, space, and territory, culture and social system, paralanguage (tone, pitch, rate, inflection), and the use of silence and time."(Marteney, pg. 31)  Paralanguage is crucial to real, good, quality, caring relationships. Communication therefore has de-evolved.

Paralanguage is even evident in a handwritten letter that has nonverbal elements such as the handwriting style. In texting, paralanguage, an important aspect of communication is nonexistent. An emoticon, such as a smiley face, could arguably be paralanguage in a crude symbolic form, like caveman drawings, but this underscores our point about the de-evolving of societal communication through texting.

Our society has made great strides in evolving in many ways, however, to de-evolve and go backwards in communication, essential to our species, is of paramount concern.

Now that we see the effect of no paralanguage let’s look at how communication de-evolved and the origin of texting.

Wireless communication began as TDD (Telecommunication Device for Deaf), a way for deaf people to communicate. (Commonwealth of Virginia. Text to 911 Information Guide) Over half a million Californians are using phones for deaf and disabled. (Deaf and Disabled Telecommunications Program, Public Utilities Commission)

Just because texting has its origins in a good intent doesn’t mean its indiscriminate use is healthy. Pain killers when used properly under medical supervision help prepare patients to endure surgery. However, an unethical doctor dispensing opioids beyond what was legal hooks patients and they overdose.

An opposing view is that texting is a new form of communication developed for deaf, yes, but the issue for non-deaf users is not the tool but how it is used. They would argue our claim does not reflect modern day reality. Technology will always change. Adaptation is a wonderful human characteristic.  We are not arguing against technology in its proper place, however our claim is that over-reliance on texting diminishes the quality of communication and relationships if it replaces face-to-face and deeper connection.
Now, we've all seen people in restaurants texting on phones and ignoring the people right in front of them, unaware of being present with their five senses to who is there with them.  In the case of the deaf, it was a godsend.  But like all technology, it has been distorted and now misused.  The rise of cellphones and texting in the last twenty-five years has retarded communication from literate expression to what can be said in less than 160 characters.

If text is replacing verbal conversation with other people, then we need to be aware and get ahold of ourselves before we lose ourselves completely to technology and social media. The lack of vocal, face to face, sincere communication is not conducive to relationships.
Keep texting for basic communication, like location, notes, reminders, but look the person in the eyes, talk to them if you have something important to discuss. Human contact is what we thrive on as a species and texting isn't going to bring us any closer. It only isolates us IF that's what we rely on solely to communicate.

In addition, it has become a serial killer on our roads. Granted, this is a side note, unrelated directly to our thesis. However, the rising death toll of people killed by texting obviously eliminates people from communicative relationships by killing them. Texting while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year. One out of every four accidents in the United States is caused by texting and driving. (National Safety Council, Texting and Driving Accident Statistics)
Now that we've covered the retarding of communication and texting dangers, let's look at the effects of the decline of literate writing.  
There has been a decline in eloquent communication such as well written letters or extensive phone or face-to-face conversations due to the negative effects of texting on both communication ability and relationships.  Most students can no longer write cursive. Common Core education no longer includes cursive writing and letter writing. (Heitin, Liana, PBS)

Often, texting does not allow for intent.  The messages are often misinterpreted or read while the listener is doing several things at once.

This multi-tasking while texting leads to less attention, care, work on communicating, and love. Parents sit texting while their children are trying to talk to them. What is this showing our children? That's it's totally okay to ignore the person in the same room as you.

Texting relationships are cheating a whole generation out of real relationships and eloquent communication, according to sociologist Andrea Lawrence, and some millennials are unable to converse on a real date if and when they ever meet face to face. (Lawrence, Are You In a Texting Relationship?)  In part, this is because a real relationship must transition from mystery and sexual chemistry to real conversations about real life, like cohabiting, chores, and bills. (Koman, Stages of Texting in a Relationship)
It could be argued that verbal speech is no different. Word choice is important in both for clarity.  However, tone, volume, vocal intonations, facial expressions, and body language cannot be communicated via text. You can use the same words and have them interpreted completely differently based on these characteristics. 

The devil's advocate defending texting could answer that our concern about intent/seeing the face and body expression, is what emojis are for. You and your texting partner just have to be on the same page about what each means, which happens naturally within a group of peers.  Emojis may help, but a small smiley or Japanese ideogram is no substitute for the vast range of expression in the human face and body. The human face alone has over twenty-one major ranges of expression according to Time magazine. (Park, Time) 

In texting, human laughter is reduced to the acronym "lol."  Acronyms, preset emoji options, limits choices and paralanguage, thus stifling imagination and creativity in communication. The decline in taking cues, verbal and nonverbal is astronomical. The interaction is robbed of the personal uniqueness and care of individual paralanguage. (Martenye)
Now that we've explained the communication and relationship decline, what do doctors and experts say are the psychological effects based on facts?  

Leading psychologists and statistics confirm this case with facts, reasons, statistics, testimony, examples, reasoning, and analogies.  
Texting is growing like a virus.  The number of monthly texts sent increased more than 7,700% over the last decade. Over 560 billion texts are sent every month worldwide.  18.7 billion texts are sent worldwide every day (not including app to app).  WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger combine for more than 60 billion messages sent every day.  4.2 billion+ people text worldwide.  Text messaging is the most used data service in the world. (Statistics from Burke, Text Statistics) Adults spend a total of 23 hours a week texting, sending 67 text messages per day on average in the United States, according to Michael Tardiff. Tardiff cites research at Brigham Young University that heavy texting increases relationship dissatisfaction. (Tardiff, The Effects of Texting On Relationships)

Counselor Kimberly Keys addresses the alarming tendency of some in dating relationships confining interactions to texts in Psychology Today. She advises "Don’t rely on texting as your main communication vehicle in your relationship. Let it augment and support your relationship, but don’t let it be the main form." (Keys, Psychology Today)  

Psychology Today also reports a decline in people showing up for in-person meetings because they think they can cancel at the last minute by text.  Before texting, people made the vast majority of their in-person meeting commitments.  That number has dropped to 50%. This has been referred to by helping professionals as "Last Minute-itis, the behavior plague of our time." (Colier)

The extreme texters, (those who communicate almost exclusively by texting), justify bailing at the last minute because they don’t look at an in-person meeting as confirmed, according to Psychology Today, unless it is confirmed by several last minute texts. And they assume everyone is like them, and has a cellphone on and will receive their last minute cancellation text.

People break up over text, and break life changing news over text too, and if that's the new form of communication, I fear for our future. Perhaps there are situations where not breaking up in person is advisable, such as an abusive relationship, but this is the exception. “Now entire relationships begin, and end, via text. This is not only unhealthy, but abnormal,” relationship expert Nicole Russell states. (Russell, Stop Texting So Much) 

A growing number of cellphone users use text to communicate to each other in the same house, the same room, the same table; they look down at their phones instead of at each other. Nearly half of all British families text each other while in the same house rather than speaking face-to-face, according to research conducted by Aviva insurance. (Crouch, UK Sun)

Some argue in opposition that texting increases connection. The argument is: "It's actually enhanced the ways we communicate. I talk to more people now than I ever did on the phone, or face to face (other than when I hung out with people or was at a party)."  Technology does create quick communication and quantity, but again our argument is not against quantity, but quality.  We cannot help but eavesdrop on the loud cellphone talkers or see people texting and it is often shallow communication about where someone is located. "I'm at the bank, now where are you?"

Now that we've seen the data supporting the harm of texting, what are the arguments for technology?

The opposing view that texting advances communication is easily refuted as untrue, illogical, self-contradictory, and uses faulty analogies.

One of the first opposing viewpoints is that younger relatives would never communicate with some parent or adults if texting isn't utilized.

The argument is "I'd rather have that small bit of relationship with them than none at all." We do not disagree that technology does facilitate easier contact in some long distance situations and with younger generations using texting almost exclusively.  Our argument is that excessive texting is robbing people of face-to-face healthier communication and relationships.

A second opposing view is an ad hominem attack that to resist texting as communication is being a "Luddite," (one who resists technology), an "old fart," without the sense to fully understand that technology moves forward and has many uses. It argues that we are resisting texting because it is new.  

This approach employs straw men arguments like "Back in the year 1239 some old fart complained that no one can see your face with a letter that was written."  The argument is invalid because it resorts to an ad hominem attack that a person who agrees with our thesis statement sounds "old." Does being older negate the point, even if its true? Also, it equates writing a letter, which in a bygone age was a very literate communication, with someone texting LOL, SMH, OMG limited to 160 characters. This invalid inference is comparing apples to oranges.

This argument also relies on what our text calls the “Bandwagon Fallacy” because it argues that texting is popular, and therefore it is good. “The name ‘bandwagon fallacy” comes from the phrase ‘jump on the bandwagon’ or ‘climb on the bandwagon,’ a bandwagon being a wagon big enough to hold a band of musicians. In past political campaigns, candidates would ride a bandwagon through town, and people would show support for the candidate by climbing aboard the wagon. The phrase has come to refer to joining a cause because of its popularity. For example, one could claim that smoking is a healthy pastime, since millions of people do it. However, knowing the dangers of smoking, we instead say that smoking is not a healthy pastime despite the fact that millions do it.” (Marteney, 206)
This argument presupposes that texting is good and should be embraced because it is a trend.  However, not all trends are good, like global warming.  Global warming or pollution may be a trend, but some trends are hazardous to our species and should be curtailed.  To say this is the new form of communication as if it's a good thing as a whole is denying an emerging problem. We can't ignore that it's affecting a lot of people in a negative way that goes beyond just limiting communication to blocks of texts, acronyms and emojis.

Things like that are convenient, yes, but it's removing the necessity for the human aspect and people are forgetting how to engage in real life. It's happening all around us and it's getting worse. We need to be aware of the pros, but also the cons of texting and frankly need to wean off of what isn't necessary. I think most of us can safely say that our lives aren't improved in a meaningful way by snapchat, or a block of text. Our happiest memories with a person aren't spent in a chat window; it's with them, experiencing something face to face. Recent studies confirm face-to-face still trumps texts for social closeness. (Salamon, U.S. News & World Report)

Health Day reporter Maureen Salamon confirms our claim through extensive research. “While technology use among young people offers some social advantages, face-to-face interaction does a better job of conveying emotional support and helping to read unspoken cues, new research contends.” (Salamon)

Texting is a privilege that can be misused. For example, we earn our licenses and the privilege to drive, but people constantly show through reckless driving and carelessness that maybe it's not the best for the greater good for a certain demographic of people to even have the privilege, those who abuse their privilege. The masses abuse the technology that allows them to instantly communicate to other people, without having to see them, without having to leave their house, without having to respond to their body language, let alone respond at all.

A third opposing view is to make texting amoral. Dysfunctional people and their dysfunctional communication are dysfunctional without technology, is the claim. And then they are dysfunctional with it.  People are the problem, not technology, in other words.  A similar argument is used by pro-gun advocates that say “Guns don't kill, people kill.”  There is a kernel of truth in this view because a disorganized person who can't get back to callers in the old days probably will be the type of person who has a cellphone no one can leave a message on because it is full.  However, texting not only empowers the dysfunction of people, by encouraging dysfunction and making it easier, it enables those with a fear of intimacy to hide behind a text wall, to resist deeper communication.  It has desensitized a generation to the need for actual human contact, according to Psychology Today (Colier, Key).

Many emotionally stunted men avoid intimacy now by only texting women they date. “The problem with texting is it allows intimacy-phobic people to fool themselves into thinking they’re trying to develop or maintain an intimate relationship. So what do you do if you’re dating a guy whose main way of connecting with you is by texting? Don’t answer him, except to tell him you’d like to talk when he has a chance,” counselor Carol Chanel said, reflecting on the damage texting does to her clients romantic relationships. (Chanel, “Is He Avoiding Intimacy?”)

If a guy isn't man enough to pick up the phone and have a real conversation, why even date him? It cannot replace the romance of talking hours on the phone.  An arrested adolescent hiding behind a text wall cannot have a real relationship on an adult level. Dr. Jed Diamond says "In the area of dating, mating, sex, and love, too much texting and too little direct contact can undermine our deepest desires." (Diamond, 7 Reasons Calling is Better Than Texting)

A fourth opposing view is that texting aids the socially retarded.  For the shy and/or serious introverts among us, things like email, texting, online messaging are like a godsend, it could be argued. For those who wish to, but lack social skills to connect face-to-face, and are limited in emotional intelligence, let them text.  But why contribute and aid the retarding of communication?  Why empower social dysfunction?
Texting diminishes relationships by retarding language, therefore, we should use texting for minimal information.

Texting has hurt communication and relationships by limiting us to short messages of 160 characters. Wireless communication began as TDD (Telecommunication Device for Deaf), a way for deaf people to communicate. Now, people text and ignore the people right in front of them.  In the case of the deaf, it was a godsend.  But like all technology, it has been distorted and now misused.  There has been a decline in eloquent communication due to the negative effects of texting on both communication ability and relationships. Leading psychologists and statistics confirm this case with facts, reasons, statistics, testimony, examples, reasoning, and analogies. The opposing view that texting advances communication is easily refuted as untrue, illogical, self-contradictory, and uses faulty analogies Texting is not merely a harmless habit that helps us stay in touch. It is a killer of real relationships and communication.
In summary, we saw the decline of communication because of texting, examined the origins of texting, the negative effects, the research and findings of experts, and stated and refuted opposing pro-texting arguments.

We can still wake up as long as we can realize that texting can and will not replace real, human conversation and experience (which I'm arguing is already attempting to replace that for a LOT of people). Also, these bad habits are contagious the more they become the commonplace, and the more people who use text to replace important conversation, the more likely others will succumb to that mode.    


Works Cited:

Burke, Kenneth. Texting Statistics That Answer All Your Questions. May, 2017

Chanel, Carol. Is He Avoiding Intimacy? September, 2016

Colier, Rev. Nancy.  Last Minute Itis: The Behavior Plague of Our Time. Psychology Today, November, 2017

Commonwealth of Virginia. Text to 911 Information Guide. 2017

Crouch, Hannah. SIGN OF THE TIMES Nearly half of all British families text each other while in the same house rather than speaking face-to-face. The Sun. February 17, 2017

Deaf and Disabled Telecommunications Program, California Public Utilities Commission

Diamond, Dr. Jed. 7 Reasons Calling is Better Than Texting in Relationships. August, 2016

Heitin, Liana Why don't common-core standards include cursive writing? PBS October, 2016

Key, Kimberly. The 7 Rules for Texting in Relationships. March, 2016

Koman, Tess. 13 Stages of Texting in a Relationship. March, 2016

Lawrence, Andrea. Are You in a Texting Relationship? November, 2016

Marteney, Jim.  Arguing Using Critical Thinking.  2017

National Safety Council. Texting and Driving Accident Statistics, 2017

Park, Alice. Human Emotions Shown in 21 Different Facial Expressions, Time. March, 2017

Pine, Justin. SMS Character Limit. June, 2017

Russell, Nicole. Stop Texting Men So Much. February, 2016

Salamon, Maureen. Face-to-Face Still Trumps Texts for Social Closeness, Studies Find. U.S. News & World Report. January 29, 2016

Sheikh, Saadia. Communication and Miscommunication: Text Messaging. June, 2017

Tardiff, Michael S. The Effects of Texting On Relationships. June, 2016












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