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.
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.