I’ve been texting since the dawn of cell phones and not until just recently have I felt the true reason why it can be an ineffective means of communications versus the good old fashioned telephone call. What turned out to be an okay event plan could have been an absolute disaster. Fortunately the good Lord was on my side that day but in my mind a whole lot of anxiety and a bit of panic about what could have happened stayed with me for several hours.
On Saturday I worked and the plan was for me to leave early to meet my wife and son at a soccer event in Downtown Vancouver, BC. Now we live in the deep suburbs south of the Fraser River and the plans would need to be coordinated in order for us to meet up successfully at our destination in Vancouver.
There must have been something like 40 messages flashing back and forth about possible options and ideas about how we’ll meet up, things to bring, things to consider. In the end I went with my original plan of taking the Skytrain and meeting up at BC Place. As I made my way to the Skytrain platform my phone began to ring. It was my wife and she said, “where are you? How come you’re not here yet?”
Well immediately I felt a bit of panic, “what do you mean?” and she says “didn’t you see my latest text message which said meet me at home just after 2:00?” Then I said well didn’t you see my original text that said we’ll meet Downtown? From there I didn’t know if I should go left or right but we decided to meet up Downtown anyways.
As I proceeded towards the final destination I got another hit of panic as I realized that I didn’t have the tickets for the event. I phoned my wife over and over but she wasn’t answering as she was en route to the Skytrain herself. I thought perhaps I should just turn around and go back home to check as I suspected she didn’t have them. Fortunately for all of us she had the tickets.
Crisis averted. However this discourse left a bad taste in my mouth for the medium of texting. I believe that a phone call could have been a more comprehensive means of getting all the plans sorted out from the get go. And when we finally met up at the event I made her promise that we would never use texting for event planning again.
So what exactly is the problem with texting? Many of us do it continuously throughout our busy days. The nice thing about texting is that conversations can be short and to the point. In other words no bullshit and lets cut to the chase. The problem I’m seeing is the fragmentation of the thought process. We write a message, move onto another task then come back to the conversation. The conversational flow is lost.
Another issue is that you don’t know if the message was acknowledged and “mentally digested”. We have become a society of “skimmers and scanners” when we’re on the Internet. Hell I’ll bet most people reading this post aren’t actually reading it but skimming for content based on their present needs. And this behavior transfers over to our text conversations and makes for ineffective communications.
You may heard that teens and pre-teens are having issues even communicating face-to-face thanks to the ubiquity of text messaging applications. Well I’m not looking forward to having my kids plan out events in the future exclusively through text. According to a post from Time, “as with real reading, the ability to comprehend subtlety and complexity comes only with time and a lot of experience. If you don’t adequately acquire those skills, moving out into the real world of real people can actually become quite scary. “I talk to kids and they describe their fear of conversation,” says Turkle. “An 18-year-old I interviewed recently said, ‘Someday, but certainly not now, I want to learn to have a conversation.’”
Apparently the problem with having physical conversations could be just as big as the problem with texting. I guess the real question is why is it so difficult to communicate effectively? Perhaps it is because our focus is torn in so many ways in this digital world. I would like to suggest that we take some time out and focus on recovering our conversational talents; after all speaking and thinking is what makes us fully human.
Can you take some time away from texting and make an effort to have deep conversations with others regardless of how difficult and awkward that may be? Why or why not?