Be honest. How many of you are more likely to text someone than you are to call that person? Good. We are on the same page — and I’m glad because my “texting rather than talking” has become a bad habit, something I would like to fix.
During the day I am guilty of choosing texting over talking with my family and friends, and not just when I’m in meetings or somewhere that I can’t make or hear a phone call.
Even adults aged 45 to 54 send and receive nearly 1,000 texts a month.
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I even text my wife when I could easily call her to ask how her day is going, and whether I need to get some food items after I leave work. We live outside town, so I usually pick up milk, bread, coleslaw, and more.
For me, texting is a time saver. If I’m between interviews or projects, I can text someone and quickly get an answer. It’s also a “no-pressure” thing with me. For example, I can text my brother on a Saturday and ask if he wants to get together that afternoon. If he has plans, he can easily decline. We don’t have to go through the awkward dance of, “Um, well, I kind of had plans,” that people do when they feel they’re being put on the spot. The problem is that I’ve found myself going days without talking to my siblings, parents and friends. Why? Because I never call them on the very phone I use to text!
To find out if I am truly alone here, I contacted communications expert Beverly Hallberg, president of District Media Group in Washington, D.C. While email is still the preferred method when dealing with work communication, text or instant messaging is the way most friends interact these days, Hallberg noted.
“I usually have several instant-messaging streams going throughout the day, from g-chat to text messages,” she told LifeZette. “For the people closest to me, it gives us a way to talk throughout the day in an informal way while still respecting our jobs.”
Texting and instant messaging allow people to have a conversation at their convenience, instead of having to discuss something all at once, said Hallberg.
“I’m often responding to a text message while on a break or in an Uber,” said Hallberg. “Texting and instant-messaging platforms are very useful for a multi-tasking professional, and they open more opportunities to chat with people you might not be able to talk to by phone.”
These sentiments, I think, go along with my “time-saver” and “no-pressure” mentality. But this comes back to my worry that I go days if not weeks without hearing that person’s voice.
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For me, it’s become sort of a disconnect.
What else is a concern for people who text rather than talk? “Tone can be lost in text,” Hallberg noted. “Emojis help, but they are not a replacement for hearing that person’s voice, or seeing that individual in person to provide context.”
Instant messaging can make certain relationships more casual when maybe they shouldn’t yet be, she added. “For example, I still think a phone call is the best way to ask a woman on a date, yet texting is a common method. I’m sure there are many millennials out there,” she added, “who would disagree with my take on texting and dating!”
I’m a millennial, albeit in the early group of those born in the generation. While in college, I asked a woman out via text message. She said yes and we are now married. But even my wife advises me to call, not text, my own mother. I remembered that going into Easter weekend and while trying to arrange a get-together. I started to text message my mother. Again — “just call her,” I thought.
“I find text or instant messaging a fine way to communicate with people who you often do not see, because it’s just an easy way to keep in contact and exchange the basics, such as when and where are you meeting,” said Hallberg. “I view social media platforms as more of a one-way line of communication, where you post your thoughts and get some feedback, but you don’t necessarily have a dialogue about life issues or events with your friends.”
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Also, social media platforms often facilitate conversations with people you’ve never met or very rarely see.”
“It serves as a replacement for an actual relationship with a person, which can be damaging,” Hallberg warned. “A friend on social media isn’t really a friend, but people can make it a substitute, and that is concerning.”
Just how many people are texting? A 2016 blog from Text Request noted that America is responsible for 45 percent of the world’s text volume. That’s nearly half of all text messages! Meanwhile, Experian Marketing Services, a global firm whose corporate offices are in Dublin, Ireland, finds that 50 percent of adults ages 18 to 24 think text conversations are just as meaningful as a phone call. Even adults aged 45 to 54 send and receive nearly 1,000 texts a month.
While I have no way of knowing for sure, I’m guessing some of those texts are about “checking to see how you are” and other things people could talk about, at their convenience, by phone. And if you ask John Stonestreet at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview in Virginia, even people in the same house are more apt to text rather than talk.
“According to the U.K. Daily Mail, nearly half of all families simply text each other — even when they’re in the house together,” Stonestreet noted in a March 2017 blog post. “Four in ten parents complain that their kids aren’t communicative during dinner because they’re face down in their phones.”
This I don’t have to worry about — at least not yet, with daughters who are seven and three years of age. We make it a point to talk about our day, and we don’t have any tech at the table that would distract us.
Meanwhile — I have no idea if my relatives and friends are alive. Sure, I could text them and see how things are going. But I’m willing to bet that one day, I’m not going to say: “I wish I could text them one more time.”
What about you?
Chris Woodward is a reporter for American Family News and OneNewsNow.com. Based in Mississippi, he is also a contributor to OneMillionDads.com and EngageMagazine.net and a regular contributor to LifeZette.