Should something be done about the way we text message?

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: February 9, 2011

Over the past decade, the way people communicate has completely evolved. I used to call people to make plans or to let my mother know I was alive and well. Now, just a text message away, we do it without thinking and often in the presence of others. There is no longer a need to call multiple times if someone doesn't answer; just type a quick snippet and it is there waiting for them when they check their phone next. Quick and simple.

However, these short and simple messages can steal us from our daily lives. I can be carrying on a conversation with a friend and before too long one or both of us have pulled out a phone – in the midst of conversation – and started replying to a text message. Point blank, it is rude and can be annoying and/or frustrating. There is etiquette that needs to be in place and expressed with text messaging and our other phone habits (Facebook, Twitter, email, etc.), but there are also times that these messages are urgent. Emergencies or important family matters, for instance.

So what is the solution? There have been a couple discrete ways that people have formed to stay current on your text messages and emails while in a business meeting, at dinner, etc. The first concept that I'm aware of is Bluetooth watches that display phone information on the face of your watch. Rather than making a dinner guest or speaker feel as if they aren't interesting enough to keep your attention, it simply looks like you are checking the time. The problem is, this can also be interpreted as impatience and boredom.

An interesting take by RIM, makers of BlackBerry, is a system that can make short text impressions on your skin called SkinDisplay (click for video demonstration). Utilizing piezoelectric technology in the battery door, when a text message is received, the message will display in a mirrored, raised manner on the door. Simply press your finger against the text for a few seconds and it will appear imprinted on your finger for a quick glance.

It sounds crazy – and it is, really – but it is a good step in the right direction. I'm not completely sold on skin imprinting. But something obviously needs to be done, and I'm glad the issue is finally being given some attention. Ironically enough, the originators of CrackBerrys themselves are heading the project.

All of this mid-conversation text messaging is undoubtedly a product of the short attention spans technology has brought to us. Although I've always had the respect to keep my phone put away as much as possible when in the presence of others, it doesn't always happen. I need some incentive to keep my phone in my pocket a little more. Who knows, maybe quickly imprinting a text message on my finger would do the trick. Do you pull out your phone to reply to text messages mid-conversation? Does it bother you when others do it to you?