The Trouble With Texting


SMS (short message service) began in 1992 and was initially a way of sending brief informational messages like “I’ll be late” or “there’s an emergency” or when you need a quick “yes” or “no” answer.  It has evolved now into… well, I don’t have to tell you what.  There’s no question it’s useful, I use it all the time now, but it is SO easy we let it rob from us the quality of our human communication.  SUCH an easy crutch to use NOT to face each other, NOT to be spontaneous, immediate, genuine–REAL.

Professor Albert Mehrabian has pioneered the understanding of communications since the 1960s.  Mehrabian’s research provided the basis for the widely quoted statistic for the effectiveness of spoken communications.

Here is a representation of Mehrabian’s findings on the communications of feelings and attitudes:

  • 7% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is in the words that are spoken. (or, presumably, written in a text?)
  • 38% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is paralinguistic (the way that the words are said; tone, inflection, etc.).
  • 55% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is in facial expression. (This includes body language and physiological ‘presence’)

Think about this the next time you try to explain your feelings and attitudes by texting.  Think about how you can pop that paltry 7% all the way up to 45% just by pressing a button on your phone.  With this bonus, do you really have to fake not seeing a text just to give yourself time to think about what you want to say?  Your voice is beautiful, and the way you search for the right words says as much as the words you find.  Any premeditated communication bears an inherent falseness to it.  Do you really want that burden?

The written word can certainly be powerful in expression if used in poetry or full-blown, quality prose, but how many excellent writers are out there?  I’m the guy whose texts are very long and complete, with fully spelled words and correct punctuation when I try to express my feelings and attitudes.  It often makes me feel self-conscious, wordy, and verbose, but I don’t care.  Having my meaning heard as I meant to convey it is important to me.

Truncated, abbreviated and “emoticated” messages mock the beauty of language do they not?   How many times have you said less or left out a thought because it was too long to text?  How do others perceive you when your average response is under five words?  What kind of value will they grant you if you present yourself as the equivalent of a coloring book outline?  And, what treacherous depths of misunderstanding will you never even be aware of?

I’m as guilty as you, nearly.  I use it.  I do my disciplined best to preserve language, craft my words, use metaphor, allusion, (and try not to use) etc.  But, if you take the time to write well when you text, you will more often find yourself saying, “Aw hell, I’ll just call and talk.”

I don’t know about you, but I like hearing peoples’ voices.


3 thoughts on “The Trouble With Texting

  1. I am the one who prefers to write (text for shorter things, whatsapp or yahoo for longer) than to talk at the phone.
    I don’t like talking at the phone for a few years. I think it is a result of stress. I have to speak at phone at work and I don’t want it anymore outside work. My reaction when a phone rings is “somebody more wanting another slice of me… as if i am a pizza!”
    I communicate better in writing. But when in my teens and 20s I loved speaking at the phone too.


  2. So, this made me pause because I am chatty by nature…I will talk your ear off if given the chance. Texting is nice for when I do not want to get in a long, drawn out conversation with someone that I really do not want to talk to though. I did discover a neat feature for texting on my smartphone. I can voice text. This means that I can now send long, drawn out texts to people. I can say what I really wanted to tell them without skimping on any words. I was so excited to discover this about 2 weeks ago. Now my texts are as long as my conversations. So much for the shortness of my texts. Voice recognition is fantastic!

    Liked by 1 person

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