The Art of Conversation and Technology

Admit it, you have sent a text message because you didn’t feel like talking to a person over the phone, let alone in person. You’ve copied an email to your boss to cover yourself. You’ve probably also posted something on Facebook that you came to regret later. Computers and the Internet have changed communication drastically. The invention is comparable to the printing press in its scope and influence.

Across the world, 32.7% of the population uses the internet. In North America, the number is 78.6%. Around 2 trillion text messages were sent in 2011, which equates to 6 billion per day. The average text message user sends or receives 35 messages per day, 41.5 texts per day in the U.S. According to a Pew study, 73% of American adults send and receive text messages, and 31% of people prefer texts to talking on the phone.

The short non sequiturs that are text messages, riddled with their abbreviations, spelling errors, and non-existent grammar structures, leave something to be desired. They do not convey emotion, emphasis or context, which allows them to act as a sort of mask. Electronic text based communication in general allows people to simply avoid uncomfortable conversations. Instead of explaining why you can’t make a commitment, you can simply type out a boiler plate text or email. They also discourage response in a way that a phone call does not: the person has the information, and now the only reason they would contact you is to seek further information. It puts the burden on the recipient, instead of the caller.

James Billington, the librarian of Congress, voiced concern about “the slow destruction of the basic unit of human thought, the sentence.” The vast majority (85%) of teens ages 12-17 engage at least occasionally in some form of electronic communication, according to a Pew study. Additionally, 38% of teens say they have used text shortcuts in school work such as LOL, and 25% have used emoticons (such as the sideways, wide grin of :D). Most of these teens (60%) don’t think of these electronic communications as writing.

These new forms of communication are here to stay. However, their long term role in society has not been cemented. Do we really want dinner tables to sit in silence, forgoing conversation for texting? Or can we find a balance, where people can shoot off a text without losing their ability to look a person in the eyes when they speak?

Additional Resources

Pew Research Center Writing, Technology and Teens: http://pwptechnology.pbworks.com/f/Writing,+Technology+and+Teens+-+Pew+Research+Center.pdf

Tech Dirt Facebook Photos Coming Back To Haunt Users: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20091125/1253147091.shtml

Internet World Stats: http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm

The Radicati Group Email Statistics Report: http://www.radicati.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Email-Statistics-Report-2012-2016-Executive-Summary.pdf

USA Today Facebook, MySpace Social Media Musing Used in Court Cases: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2012-08-04/facebook-social-media-crime/56762626/1

Pew Americans and Text Messaging: http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/Cell-Phone-Texting-2011/Summary-of-Findings.aspx#

NY Daily News Is Texting Ruining the Art of Conversation? http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/texting-ruining-art-conversation-fear-losing-ability-traditional-face-to-face-conversations-article-1.1089679

The Olympian Social Crutch of Cellphone Texting is Killing the Art of Casual Conversation: http://www.theolympian.com/2011/05/11/1647330/social-crutch-of-cellphone-texting.html

 

 

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