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The way we communicate changes all the time. We started off with face-to-face conversations, and when we wanted to communicate with somebody farther away we would write letters or send telegrams. Once the telephone was more mainstream, all you had to do was dial the digits that connected you to whoever you wanted to call. Once telephones went mobile, it seemed as if the world was at our fingertips. Not only did we have the ability to contact just about anybody, but we could do it just about anywhere. The telephone, as well as the mobile phone, are truly amazing technological feats that were accomplished during the 19th and 20th centuries.

But technology works in a strange way where, even when you think you have the world at your fingertips, it finds a way to create something new that you never knew you wanted, like text messaging. Text messaging, although invented in the 90's, actually didn't become mainstream until mid-2000's. Many providers hadn't offered SMS plans until around the turn of the century given the lack of interest in the technology. It's hard to pinpoint exactly why text messaging started taking off. There's a lot of factors on why people starting finding it more useful. Business users were able to multitask while still communicating with colleagues; teenagers were able to sneak a text during class; and text message alerts could come straight to your phone without requiring you to pick up your phone or do anything other than spare a few seconds to read the text. The benefits of the technology was uncanny, and it would soon become the social norm after picking up speed (especially when smartphones came in to play).

So now we have mobile phones and text messaging, so that pretty much covers everything, right? Of course not. With the rise of text messaging also came another phenomenon known as a social network. While the idea of social networking mostly started out as a series of blogs written by anybody who had access to a computer and internet with websites like Xanga, Livejournal, and Diaryland, the idea behind social networks quickly adapted to what seemed like an easier solution for connecting with each other. Instead of writing long, drawn-out "diary" entries on the Internet, developers found that people much prefer to jot down little blurbs here and there. In a society where it seems like there isn't enough time to get anything done, short blurbs seemed like the perfect solution for the social networker on the go. MySpace, at least for me, served as the bridge between full-time blogging on Xanga and status updates from Facebook. As Facebook stole the spotlight from MySpace, the idea that short, sweet and to-the-point status updates was clearly a winner when it comes to shaping how social media networks would work for years to come.

So here we are, with Facebook still very much in popular standing along with similar social networking platforms like Twitter and Google+. With many smartphone platforms having most of these social networks available in its app market, it's no wonder that smartphones have become so important to us when it comes to communication. We truly do have the world at our fingertips now.  We have this phone calling, text messaging, social networking, video calling, media sharing, game playing behemoth of a device in our hands, so what do we do? We use it. All the time. At least, some people do. I do. And I think it's contributing to my becoming socially awkward.

I've considered myself a passionate writer since a young age - I'd say starting about age 10 is when I really starting becoming interested in the art. But even as I began to write more often I was always comfortable communicating both in written form and orally. It was when I started picking up text messaging when I started to lose touch with how well I communicated verbally and began to see what I considered the "benefit" of communicating over written language rather than verbal. To make a long story short, I found it easier to think before I write (or 'send', rather) than thinking before I speak. Although many times, when I was first learning how to text, there was the dreaded 160 character-limit (that I still struggle with to this day on platforms like Twitter) where I just couldn't say as much as I wanted to. In that case, I would opt to use my actual phone to make a voice call. But again, as time passes by and as technology advances, I don't have that character limit problem anymore. I'm able to type out entire novels within minutes to explain how my day went. It's something that could easily be accomplished within a much shorter timeframe if I had just made a phone call, but when I write out a text message it's more comforting to me that I can review what I wrote and then press 'Send'; this prevents me from skimping out on any important information.

Since aquiring a smartphone, both my in-person and phone call attention span has been cut fairly short; my mind will flit around trying to find something to do while holding a conversation. I'm used to multitasking, which is something I often do when I text message or social network. These features and platforms allow me to answer on my own time, and allow me to think about what I say before I say it. I like it that way, but I wish my excessive usage of them didn't hinder my ability to use quick-thinking replies in real life. Instead, both my vocal and in-person etiquette has become blunderous to say the least:

"Hey Anna, how has your day been?"
"I'm fantastic, thanks for asking! And you?"

Or trying to leave a conversation:

"Alright, well I guess I'll catch you later then."
"Okay, see you tonight! I mean, tomorrow! I mean, well, we never really scheduled a time. See you soon! Well, maybe not soon. See you later someday!"

Face and palm.

So, now that we know that I have slowly descended into becoming the epitome of a socially awkward penguin, likely due to my excessive text-based use on my smartphone, I have to ask you fine readers: Do you find yourself being more comfortable texting and using social networks to communicate than actual vocal or face-to-face communication? Or do you prefer the more traditional method of hearing a real person's voice? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Images via Tekmania, GFK Tech Talk


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