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OPINION- It’s noon and you’ve just been let out of your history class. Suddenly, you realize you did not eat breakfast and have not made any plans for lunch. Does this mean you’re out of luck and will be dining alone?
Absolutely not. You pull out your cell phone and invite 15 of your friends to meet you at your favorite dining hall in ten minutes. This is all instantaneous; most of the people you have just contacted have already returned their RSVP. And of course, you do this without realizing that it only became possible 18 years ago, which is probably more recently than you were even born.
In 2002, the Times of India celebrated the tenth anniversary of the first text message. This monumental step in the world of communication was taken in 1992 and sent from a personal computer by a 22-year-old test engineer to a mobile phone, reading simply “Merry Christmas.”
The Times also noted that the system did not seriously begin to catch on until the turn of the century, but by now it is one of the most popular forms of interchange in the world. It has heightened the convenience of correspondence to previously unimaginable levels. This obviously makes life easier for most people when they need to transmit a simple message to one or more people very quickly.
The high levels of ease that people are able to communicate in contemporary society are unprecedented; never before in history has it been so effortless to relay information to the masses. Communication is faster, more efficient and even feels more like the proverbial future. This was the technology we have been promised for decades, the technology that was the stuff of dreams as late as our births. It can only have positive ramifications, right?
Not necessarily. There are major benefits associated with text messaging, but they are accompanied by a great number of complications. The loss of linguistic richness of various tongues is one particular worry. The New Yorker recently expressed its concern that the institution of text messaging is “Americanizing” other languages. For example, written accents appear to be in the process of being dropped by French speakers because of texting. This phenomenon also appears to extend as far as Ethiopian languages.
Linguistic homogenization is unfortunate for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is a decrease in cultural diversity. Diversity is the flavor of the world; without this, the most interesting aspects of life might be dulled. Being at the forefront of technology gives American culture a special position in the world, and regardless of how much we might enjoy our own culture, it is the prerogative of each nation to maintain its own distinct essence.
A major demerit awarded to texting, though, comes in the form of the current college generation’s loss of the ability to make plans and stick to them. People are so able and willing to make simple decisions on the fly that there is no necessity of making ones for the long term. Anyone who wants to keep up with the rising millennial generation must inevitably give up a preconceived notion of planning ahead and be able to change course entirely by simply rolling his thumb across a phone.
Being able to adapt to new situations is without question a valuable skill. But to develop it by simultaneously abandoning a desire to plan events ahead of time is a dangerous precedent. Major interactions such as business meetings and client appointments cannot simply be planned with a short text; schedules must be adhered to because society has become so international. If a businessman flies into a foreign country, he expects his appointments to be met promptly and without issue. And it is the height of unprofessionalism to merely text a major client about a last-minute change. This client likely has other appointments in his rigid schedule, so the text loses the sender credibility by implying he is unable to maintain a serious agenda. International travel is quite expensive, so it would not benefit a professional to make last-minute cancellations.
Text messaging is one of many new forms of communication that decreases a person’s patience simply by its convenience. Once it is discovered that such an easy form of communication exists, why would anyone return to the old ways like telephone calls and mail? And there is something to be said about these new, electronic methods. They are easier, faster and much less of a hassle to store.
E-mails can be kept on a hard drive without needing to scan or type them in and texts can be saved onto the phone with little concern of running out of room. Clearly they are better for informal communication, but they are in no way a substitute for actual human interaction; texts have no vocal inflection, which is one of the positives of a telephone. Face-to-face discussion is the premier form of communication; interaction gains an extra level of depth when people are in each others’ presence. So the old methods are superior for more important discussions. The quality of discussion is lost for the convenience of the method as there is no humanity in the anonymous text of a plastic screen.
So is there a silver lining to the problems associated with these new forms of communication? There doesn’t need to be. If these methods are used responsibly and at the appropriate times, they are an exceptionally useful addition to the world’s communication market. The generations who grow up with texting and its brothers just need to be able to determine in what context they should be used, just like any new and revolutionary technology.
For example, mp3 players and turntables have a similar relationship. Many music aficionados swear by record players because of their claimed warmth and superior sound quality, but no one would argue that they are useful in any way for travel or transference of music. Texting, like mp3 players, has its place just as records and old forms of communication have theirs.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Stephen Prager at Stephen.email@example.com.