New technology such as smart phones should be a great asset and a powerful aid to helping us work more efficiently. We can respond to urgent emails on the go, refer to useful websites and look up quick facts.
However, these gadgets, as well helping us, can also prove to be a hindrance providing information overload and constant interruptions. We receive so many emails and are exposed to so much information that it can be hard to distil what is actually important and what isn’t. We fill our brains with clutter and lose the ability to focus on our priorities and spend our time responding to trivial emails. We think we are multi-tasking but actually we are becoming less productive.
We read each email but don’t always process the information we need. As a result, we risk irritating the sender by asking them to remind us what they said or to send the email again. More worryingly, we allow ourselves to be distracted from more important tasks by the seeming urgency of each email that comes in.
This information overload doesn’t only impact the way we process information ourselves but can also have a negative impact on the way others perceive us. It is all too easy to give the impression that you are not listening to the other person. It can be quite obvious even on the telephone that you are distracted by your inbox rather than giving the speaker your full attention. In a face-to-face meeting, of course, it is only too apparent when the person you are talking to is distracted by their smart phone rather than focusing on the content of the meeting.
In the past several years, texting and instant messaging have become phenomena that few of us have been able to escape. Though most popular with the younger generations, it is becoming increasingly common to see people of all ages absorbed in silent conversations on their cell phones. The availability of constant, instant communication makes many people feel connected to their friends in ways they never were before. But do these printed messages and instant responses help or hinder us socially?
The instant messaging fad brought abbreviations such as “LOL” (Laugh Out Loud) and “BRB” (Be Right Back) into our language as commonly accepted “words.” The younger generations chatted happily in this new “language” while everyone else struggled to understand what “BTW” (By the Way) and “IDK” (I Don’t Know) meant. This phenomenon spread over into texting as children as young as five received the latest models of cell phones to communicate with their friends and family.
Though everyone with a cell phone is clearly well-connected to other people, the question remains whether engaging in such constant, abbreviated communication is a help or a hindrance in personal relationship skills. Over the past decade there has been a dramatic difference in the attitudes and communication styles of the younger generations, but how much of this change has been compounded by the lack of face to face communication advocated by the texting craze?
There is no way to tell for certain whether texting and instant messaging have actually caused the breakdown of one-on-one, face-to-face communication with people, but I believe it has not helped. Instead of using cell phones as a mere communication tool, many young people view them as a necessity they could not possibly live without. We have all seen people glued to their phones, their fingers flying over the keys as they stand in line at the store, or are walk down the mall, and even frighteningly enough, while they are driving. In one case, a pair of girls walking together in the mall admitted that they were texting each other! I have even been engaged in a conversation with someone when they whipped out their phone to send a text message to someone else!
Is this the kind of society we are encouraging by allowing young people to be so dependent on their phones? A society where face to face communication all but ceases to exist in place of disembodied text messages, even when the person you are talking to is standing beside you? It may be true that the people sending and receiving those text messages are communicating with each other, but what does it say to the people who are actually physically around them? What happened to the days when you could walk through the store and complete strangers would smile and greet you as you passed? Have the basic societal manners of years gone by disappeared for good?
Using cell phones to talk or text is not a bad thing in itself. However, it is my opinion that certain rules of etiquette should be applied when using them in order to maintain a respectful relationship with everyone you are in contact with. Being glued to your cell phone puts off a very distinct signal that you are unavailable and unapproachable to everyone around you. If you text a friend while talking to someone else you are telling the person in front of you that the friend is more important than they are.
Bad grammar and spelling are also compounded by electronic communication. Constantly using abbreviations and fragments in instant communication ingrains these bad habits into a person. English teachers have always struggled to encourage correct spelling and grammar in their students. Now, with texting and instant messaging becoming so prevalent, their jobs are that much harder. And it is not just in the classroom where spelling and grammar have fallen by the wayside. Businesses who are interested in maintaining a high level of professionalism are often hard-pressed to find applicants who can spell, speak, and write properly.
So, what can we do to help those people who are addicted to their phones remember that there is more to life than texting and instant messaging? I believe that parents should try to encourage their teenagers to talk on the phone for long conversations, rather than texting back and forth 500 times. Doing so will help teens develop real conversation skills which are not possible in the lingo of texting. Also, everyone should be encouraged to give their full attention to the person they are talking to. If you are engaged in a conversation with someone who starts texting some0one else, kindly ask them to finish talking with you first. If they refuse, simply walk away. I have used this method myself very effectively. Usually, if the person cares about you at all, they will realize how rude their behavior is.
So, is texting and instant messaging a help or a hindrance? I believe it is both. Texting and instant messaging can be wonderful forms of communication when implemented correctly, but they can also be abused and have adverse effects. People of all ages need to realize that moderation is the key when using alternate forms of communication. By understanding when these forms are appropriate and when they are not, people can gain valuable communication skills, be more likely to absorb correct spelling and grammar principles, be more productive in the business world and appear far more approachable to the world in general.
Since society as a whole is becoming increasingly dependent on the instant communication provided by cell phones, I believe that we must all do what we can to engage in respectful behavior ourselves and encourage it in others. Excellent communication, proper grammar and spelling do not have to be things of ages past. With a little effort and encouragement we can all help ensure that these important values of yesteryears are around for future generations.
Texting is the preferred method of communication for young people. According to an article by Mike Flacy, DigitalTrends, “One in ten young adults between the ages of 18 to 24 report that they send or receive at least 200 text messages per day (approximately 6,000 messages per month). The next age group, 25-34 year olds, typically average about 42 texts per day and this trend continues to decrease down to about 5 texts a day for the 65 and older group.” 200 text messages per day? Do they have time to do anything else in life? Will these young adults get carpal tunnel syndrome of the thumbs?
Do you prefer to text rather than talk? According to the survey, “Most people are too occupied and busy in today’s world that they hardly get enough time to have an elaborated conversation on phone, and hence prefer to communicate via text.” I can see the attraction to texting, however I do like to hear a person’s voice. The emotions and flavor of the conversation can be misunderstood more easily through texting. After all, you can’t hear the sighs and laughter while texting. Yes, you can text little acronyms like “LOL” and put little smiley faces in your text, but sarcasm and irony are lost in texting. I do like to get little morning text messages from my friends far away, and it is how I communicate with my son most of the time. But I would have to say, my preferred method of communication is voice or Skype.
With texting taking over, hands-free devices are even more important. Many of the Smartphones have the capability of translating voice into text to send text messages without typing. A good quality Bluetooth headset with noise canceling makes this process much better. Do you have a Bluetooth mobile headset? I have a Droid X, which is a bit cumbersome to hold up to your ear to talk. I love having my Bluetooth headset to use, especially for multitasking around the house while talking on the phone. And of course with more and more states requiring hands-free devices while driving, a good headset is essential. Do you have one? What’s your favorite? Meanwhile, don’t get into any thumb wrestling contest with anyone under 30 years of age. You KNOW their thumbs are agile and strong from texting a bazillion words per minute.