A few years ago while I was receiving some training in Sioux Falls, I got together for dinner with my High School German teacher who now lives there. We had a nice talk about a lot of different subjects including how much things have changed since I was in High School.
I finally asked her a question that I had been wondering about for awhile at the time. I was curious if she had started to see text speak end up in any of her student’s papers. I was not surprised to learn that she had and keep in mind that she taught German.
I asked because I have always been fascinated by the Internet and what happens when Internet use spreads. Aside from that, a new iPhone had entered my life and for the first time I was able to join the texting revolution.
So I found this article to be quite fascinating. Actually, fascinating is just one of the adjectives I might use to describe it. Another word that came immediately to mind was worrysome.
But is a decline in verbal communication a bad thing? It depends on who you ask.
43% of 18-24 year-olds say that texting is just as meaningful as an actual conversation with someone over the phone. Also, though we aren’t “speaking” as often, we are “talking” now more than ever.
Yesterday, I wrote about my own poor communication skills but that’s only part of the issue. I don’t actually like to talk to people on the phone, I never have. I can be a bundle of nerves when I talk to people over the phone.
I remember the earliest stages of one of my relationships when all we could do was talk on the phone because it was long distance. I used to get so nervous about calling and talking to her over the phone that I would actually have to put the phone down so I could run into the bathroom to throw up. That used to be what happened to me any time I was nervous, it happened at a lot of debate tournaments I was at in High School. Thankfully, that nervous tick has disappeared over the past 5 or 6 years. So I doubt if I ever talked to say Mia on the phone that I would need to run and throw up.
Given that information you would probably assume that I was in favor of text/email communication. You would be incorrect. I prefer text and email to the phone but all things being equal would prefer to talk to someone face to face most of all.
The other way my old girlfriend and I would communicate since we lived in different states is over Instant Messaging and email. That’s fine for quick chats and less than serious conversation. But it was my experience that every time we tried to discuss an issue of major import in that manner, things were a disaster.
Yet for as bad as it could be and it got pretty bad, I still kept trying to make it work. I think we just miss out on so much when reading an email or string of text messages. At least on the phone you can get a feel for a person’s tone of voice and if you are talking face to face you have that and unless you’re me or someone like me you can also read a person’s body language and facial expressions.
I am almost impossible to understand in a lot of regards. I would rather talk to someone face to face, I believe communication is very important in any relationship and yet I don’t really like to be around people all that much. Well, I don’t like crowds but don’t mind small groups. I can speak in front of large groups with no problem despite my not liking crowds because as the speaker I’m always able to put a bit of distance between myself and the audience.
I guess the easiest way for me to explain myself is to say that how I prefer to talk to someone depends a lot on what it is that I need to talk to them about. If I need to set up a meeting with someone I would prefer to email or text them. You don’t really need to know someone’s tone of voice or facial expression when you set up a meeting for 9 AM a week from tomorrow.
I could never go on a texting date with someone though. The whole time I was texting them I’d be thinking about how I’d rather be talking to them in a more personal way. Out of necessity I have had very long Internet chats with women but it is one of those things that I would try to abandon for better communication options as soon as I could.
I think I could handle meeting with people over Skype for professional reasons. I don’t think that would really make me all that nervous at all and I regard Skype the same way I do the telephone. I mostly don’t like interacting with people I don’t know over the phone. If I don’t know someone I would much prefer to talk to them face to face or email them and continue to keep my distance.
In my case, there is another thing to consider. The impression I form of a person is in large part based on their voice. You can send me all of the pics of yourself that you want but I can’t see them. Even if we stand face to face I am really only going to be able to gage something like your height and not the style of your clothing or hair. I tend to think of people in the abstract until I have heard their voice for the first time.
I think I have rambled on beyond the original point of my sharing that article with you. I’m not sure what to think of that article, quick frankly. I think it is sad that verbal communication is falling and that people would rather text their friends than be in the same room but for as sad as I think that is, I just discussed it on Skype IM with a friend whom I hven’t spoken to on the phone in years and have never met in person.
As I wrote the other day, the Internet fascinates me. It is the most transformative form of technology to appear in my lifetime. Yes, I know the Internet was developed in the 1960s and I was born in 1981 but it didn’t become accessible to the average person until the early 1990s and the Internet of that day looks nothing like the Internet of today.
I don’t believe that we have a good handle on what the Internet is doing to us as a society. Especially when you are talking about the personalized Internet that is designed to appeal to the things that we like including our own political beliefs.
I write this blog because I am still a fan of long form writing. I would never write something like this as a Facebook post. I think written communication is very important. Seeing text speak appear in term papers or more professional documents troubles me. Yet for as attached as I am to this form of communication, I think we could be in trouble if it continues to rise while verbal communication continues to decline. Welcome to the law of unintended consequences.