Negative Aspects of Text Messaging

EL PASO — Frances Thrush sends 100 text messages a day and a total of about 4,000 a month.

“When my phone service is cut off, I feel completely lost and anxious because I am not able to text,” Thrush said.

She is a 16-year-old junior in high school admitting to being addicted to text messaging and could not picture her social life without it.

“It’s a very quick and simple way to keep in touch with all my friends at once, I love it,” Thrush said.

The consumer research company Nielsen Mobile, which kept track of 50,000 individual customer accounts in the second quarter of this year, found that Americans each sent or received 357 text messages a month, compared with just 204 phone calls. That was the second repeated quarter in which texting significantly surpassed the number of voice calls.

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Text messaging or Short Messaging Service is a short form of sending messages in text form using mobile phones. It can send up to 160 characters or fewer; newer phones can hold up to 20 pages of 160 characters. Text messaging is the cell phone phenomenon that is changing the way people communicate through cell phones. T-Mobile sales representative in El Paso, Chris Yakubovsky, reports that well over 60 percent of all their cell phone communication is now being done via text messaging. He said that text-messaging plans are among the highest selling and most demanding of all the plans the phone company offers on a national basis.

“We offer plans to be able to text all you want for a convenient low price, as technology advances and phones are now being designed with texting in mind, it will only grow from here,” Yakubovsky said.

Cell phones are not being sold in the traditional form with number keypads. They are now being built with “QWERTY” type keyboards, thus making it easier for fingers to be able to text away at a moments notice. Here in the U.S., texting has grown in the last few years, as the technology has improved with the introduction of products like the Apple iPhone or the popular Blackberries.  In June 2008, 75 billion text messages were sent in the U.S., compared with just 7.2 billion in June 2005, according to CTIA, the Wireless Association, the leading industry trade group.

Psychology major Dania Diaz said that text messaging can be negative, “text messaging is dangerous, not only does it ruin social interaction between humans, writing skills and expression. Everything becomes so impersonal and simple.”

Psychologist Cecilia Holguin of the University Counseling Center at the University of Texas at El Paso reports the effects of texting on a person’s communication skills.

“It does seem people are more comfortable text messaging rather than actually talking with another human,” Holguin said. “There is no awkwardness or vocal response involved when texting. Young people could virtually say anything through texts and don’t have to commit to engaging into the effects through a vocal conversation.”

Texting is used because of its facilitation with multi-tasking.  College engineering Major Darko Marquez admits to using texting rather than actual phone conversations.

“The thing I like most about texting is that unlike the phone where you have to sit and concentrate into a long, boring conversation with one person,” Marquez said. “With texting, you can be watching TV, surfing the web, playing videogames, and talking to as much people as you want all at once.”

Terms such as “lol” meaning laugh out loud and “btw” meaning by the way are terms that only daily text-messaging users understand. Teenagers use the term “POS” to let each other know when a parent is over the shoulder. Linguist professor at the University of Texas at El Paso Richard Teschner believes texting does affect the way young teenagers linguistic development goes.

“Young people using this form of communication; their brains get accustomed to picturing words in the short text forms,” Teschner said.

When asked about the long term effects of text messaging, Teschner said he doesn’t believe young people will be affected in speech or in any major lexical development, but there are certainly no benefits to spelling words incorrectly and shortening the language itself.

One of the main problems with texting is how easy it makes it to communicate in a subtle form in classrooms and meetings and such. Communications professor at the University of Texas at El Paso Frank Perez says, “Texting is a frustrating part about college students nowadays. I rarely give a full lecture without having to remind students not to be text messaging while I am speaking. If I catch someone texting, I will give them a warning and the second time I catch them, they must leave the classroom.”

He compares texting to other distractions, “It is just like students who use their laptops during classroom lectures, they are either chatting away in messengers, and their minds are not focused on the lecture.”

Perez hopes students would follow the turn cell phones off sign and reminders on syllabi throughout classes for their own good.

Texting while driving is the cause behind many car accidents today, claims Officer Jay Coves of the El Paso Police Department said.

“It is becoming more and more common to hear about people being distracted behind the wheel while they are driving,” Coves said.

Coves was not able to give exact numbers but claims there is a significant rise in the number of accidents caused by people being distracted while texting. There are now anti-texting laws while driving around the country, just like there is anti-phone talking while driving laws around the country. Texting while driving is more dangerous than using a cell phone because it requires drivers to divert their hands and eyes.  Bills going through in Washington are making anti-texting laws “primary,” meaning a cop can stop anyone they catch texting while driving.  They don’t need any other reason but to see the driver texting to stop them. The fine in Washington is $101. This is a hefty price to pay just for answering your friends’ text while you should be concentrating on the road ahead.

Over the last two years, news programs across the country have recorded the death or serious injury of people who walk into traffic while texting or while driving. Police reports from New York said that a crash in 2007, which killed five cheerleaders in upstate New York, may have very well been linked to texting. Another example of measures being taken against texting while driving is the California Public Utilities Commission announcement of an emergency measure temporarily banning the use of all mobile devices by anyone at the controls of a moving train.  The ban was adopted after federal investigators announced that they were looking at the role that a train engineer’s text-messaging may have played in the country’s most deadly traveler rail accident in four decades. A recent Nationwide Insurance survey of 1,503 drivers found that almost 40 percent of those respondents from 16 to 30 years old said they text while driving.

Parents like Mercedes Thrush cannot stop their children from texting. While she has learned to text herself, she is frustrated with the distraction texting has caused her family.

“There are times when we are all sitting around the table for dinner and everyone will be easily distracted through texting,” Mercedes Thrush said. “It is very difficult for us to maintain a pleasant, normal conversation because they are eating and texting.”

When she first started texting with them, they would shorten words in rare form.

“I asked them what those abbreviations stood for, I started learning the lingo myself, and it’s like a whole different language to me,” Mercedes Thrush said.

Companies like Verizon Wireless are putting forth technology where texting can be regulated throughout various times of the day. For example, parents who don’t want their children to be texting at night can prevent that.

Mercedes Thrush uses this regulation texting tool.

“I used to wake up in the middle of the night and find my children texting away at 3 in the morning, now with this regulation, we can all sleep peacefully without being disturbed with a text at improper times at night,” she said adding that the next step she thinks would be creating a device inside cars to prevent texting while driving.

Text messaging is being used as the number one form of communication through cell phones. With new phones and plans designed to accommodate text messaging, this form of communication will only grow. While texting can be convenient and quick, it can also be dangerous and distracting.

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20 Comments

  • Elisa Espinosa says:

    Estoy totalmente de acuerdo con Cesar, el mandar un SMS podría parecer un problema minúsculo, pero en realidad es un gran problema para todos. Al igual como los correos electrónicos, cuando empezaron no había modales al manarlos, y con el tiempo se crearon formatos para un buen correo electrónico. Poco a poco todos los usuarios de este servicio nos daremos cuenta de los errores que cometemos al mandar o leer un SMS como en muchas ocasiones, interrumpiendo conversaciones y así cambiaremos nuestros hábitos. Espero que esta historia haga recapacitar no solo a mi, sino a muchos estudiantes mas.

  • Norma Vechot says:

    I am so glad to read an article like this. Texting I find now a days to be such a problem. Every corner you turn and look while your driving everyone is either on the phone or texting while driving. I will admit to having done this to myself, but I also had to step back and realize how dangerous this seriously can be. As much as it can be convenient and a quick form of communication, I just wish people would pick up phone and not try and derail the that people did have at some point, before this text craze took over. I find that not only has this new craze taken over the road, but also various areas such as the workplace. As much as I love how advanced we are getting, it seems like texting has just gotten out of hand and will continue to do so.

  • Eddie Delgado
    Eddie Delgado says:

    Lots of insight. I really didn’t know you could regualte what hours of the day you can txt. Driving and txting is really bad. I see that alot these days. I myself txt alot, but it’s an easier way to get things done.

  • Cesar Marquez says:

    Elisa- Estoy de acuerdo, ojala esta historia haga recapacitar a mucha gente para mandar textos con buenos habitos.

    Norma- I hope this texting craze does not get out of hand like you said. We need not look further than ourselves, a great movie that comes to mind is “Seven Pounds”. Which teaches us the dangers of texting while driving.

    Eddie- Texting is an efficient way of communicating, however there are appropriate times and places where it can be used in proper forms.

    Thanks for your comments and extra insight, I appreciate it.

  • Richard A Massey says:

    Texting is no different than AOL, and AOL was no different than beepers.
    710 for example is an OG abbreviation for car trouble (it reads oil upside down).
    Youth ALWAYS have some sore of shortened/obtuse vocabulary. It is necessary for bonding and generational cohesiveness, as well as distinguishing the “us” from the “other”.
    Whether it be ‘pwnd’ or ‘failboat’ today, the LOL of 5 years ago, or ‘reet’ of 50 yearsago, the lingo changed but the raison d etre for it never changes.

    The beauty and bane of a text message is semi-permanence :
    1: – unlike verbal communication, there is no necessity for immediate response. The reply can be sent at a convenient time, when you are not in class, driving, cooking dinner etc. This can also improve the quality of communication.

    2: the conversation is there to review and pick up at any time. what would take 2 minutes to say verbally face to face, if you could find the time to meet up, or 2-3 minutes on the phone, can take the 2-3 minutes via text… or be parsed out as each person finds 15 seconds to respond over hours or days.

    I have to be honest… this sounds a lot like all the hubbub about how children who grew up with phones in the 50s would not be able to communicate face to face, or how typewriters were impersonal, or how emails were just not as good as typed letters, or AOL would prevent social development… ie, the same generational gap nonsense.

    Communication evolves as society evolves, re: texting (now that it is nearly universal and nearly free) Society is just undergoing the same acclimatization period as any other newly common and inexpensive technology, whther that be the Printing press, radio, tv, computers, phones, cell phones, beepers, instant messaging, etc.

    THe problem is not the technology, the problem is moderation and impulse control, and that is a PERSONAL problem, not a technological one.

  • Cesar Marquez says:

    Thanks Mr. Massey for reading the article and taking time to list some of the positive aspects of texting in your opinion. I found your arguments compelling. Comparing texting to technologies such as phones and typewriters in the 1950s was noted, albeit irrelevant to downplaying negative aspects of texting by people, not dealing with the technology itself. However, I do agree with the problem being moderation and impulse control.

  • cameron wells says:

    Thanks this helped me a lot

  • Cesar Marquez says:

    In the news today, there was a story about the El Paso or state of Texas taking steps to offically ban the use of cell phones and texting while driving. Maybe if there’s a fine involved, people will stop the dangerous habit of cell phone use while driving. This ban could be put into use as early as April.

  • antreon says:

    ‘ would this be good information to use in a reseach paper ? and if so would it be okay to use it ?

  • Cesar Marquez says:

    to antreon- As long as you use this story as a reference and verify whichever facts you are using. Make sure they are up to date, perhaps some laws have changed…

  • f. elizabeth says:

    I get tired of texting all the time and actually encourage people to call me or even write me a letter which takes at least a fraction of more thoughT. I find myself tired of people always saying things over text message and never really worrying about the consequences because you can always seem to say you “sent it to the wrong person” or it was a “typo”.I also have found that text messaging has left more and more people unable to truly communicate with each other in person. They would rather compliment each other and flirt over text message when oftentimes they are sitting in the next room but are afraid of making the physical contact of genuinely speaking to each other. I now try to say everything that’s important in person and limit giving vital information over text-message unless it’s absolutely urgent. Text messaging has seemed to effectively separate us from each other creating distant relationships between people limiting out ability to truly communicate and relate to each other outside of our cell phone screen

  • Justin says:

    It has been proven that when it comes to human communication 55% is non-verbal (body language for example), 38% has to do with voice tone and only 7% are the words we use. Texting elminates 93% of how humans communicates and leaves us with cold and empty communication. I have been guilty of trying to care on a “conversation” via text only to end up creating a problem because the body language and the tone of my voice were missing.

    Does Texting have a place – absouletely! Letting my wife know I’m stuck in a metting and can’t take a call or that I need to pick-up something from the store on the way home or to let someone know I’m running a late and will call in a few minutes. But Texting is not a substition for getting to know humans – anyone that believes or argues that texting is just the new way of communicating and that emotions and feelings can be expressed has probably never truely known another human being from sitting down and talking to them and noticing the human side of that person.

  • Sharon says:

    A long time ago, I used to have a plan where a single text received would cost 20 cents, and a sent text would cost 35 cents. I had been through cases where people ignored my repeated requests of no texting due to the high cost for my part. So I decided that I’ve had enough and cut off the text message plan completely. It has been 2 years without it and I don’t miss it at all.

    Many of my friends only text and never call. Sometimes I feel the only way to be their friends and be in a social circle is to jump into the pool of “text-only” communication. Then again as someone who’s very comfortable with verbal communications, I find some of these friends lack a little something when it comes to talking voice-to-voice. For my text-only friends, I would dare say many of them lack empathy and/or proper emotional expression. I can’t help but wonder about the long term consequences for this dysfunctional form communication.

    Again, I’m talking about people who text excessively or only use text as their form of communication.

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