How texting has changed the way an entire generation communicates

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from  Kansas City, MO
| November 26, 2013

I am a texter.

That's the only real way to describe how I communicate. Very seldomly do I ever use my phone for voice calls. That's not to say that I never use the voice calling feature, but aside from my parents, some businesses and the occasional family phone call to those who don't text I'm tapping away on the screen as fast as I can almost continuously to communicate with friends. And when I say almost continuously, I'm not kidding. Although I have learned since my first article asking whether we were addicted to our phones or not, or when the appropriate times to not use my phone are, once I get started on a texting conversation it can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few days. It's a nearly neverending conversation.

Sometimes I realize this is not normal, and I sometimes wonder how we keep thinking of things to talk about.

When I was younger my parents would often ask me just exactly was so interesting with my phone that caused me to always have my face glued to it. The answer was always the same: "I'm just texting." Honestly, I couldn't for the life of me figure out why they cared so much what I was doing on my phone. And it's not like I was just staring into the phone and not doing anything - clearly my thumbs were very hard at work. But lately I've come to the realization that noticing how often I was texting wasn't exactly something they had to look too hard to see. I mean, I was doing it all the time. When you're texting there's always something to talk about, even if it's about nothing.

Texting itself is pretty insane once you really think about it. Out of any feature that I use on my phone, texting is the one that I use the most. Over the past several billing cycles I haven't used less than 5,000 text messages (both sending and receiving, mind you). Upon seeing this my first thought was, "Who exactly have I been talking to so often that I've been sending and receiving so many text messages?" I don't really have a ton of friends that I converse with via text, but the few that I do certainly seem to be getting a mouthful from me when we have conversations. Except for in reality, they're not really mouthfuls. In fact, when going back through my text message conversations quite a few of them are smiley faces, "lol", "ok" or other one word replies that make me wonder why I felt the need to say anything in the first place. But that's just the thing: as texters, we always feel like we have to fill the gap in time with something, anything. The best way to fizzle a conversation out is to wait too long to respond, and even if it means contributing something as mundane as a "lol" when you didn't really laugh out loud just to hang on to a conversation, you do.

Sometimes I wonder if texting has ruined communication for our generation, or perhaps that it's just changed it. But the more I think about it, I do really wonder if things have gotten too out of hand. Aside from the ever-so-common sight of two friends, or even a group of them, all hanging out and paying more attention to their phones than each other's company, there's the issue that once you've texted about everything there's nothing left to talk about in person. When you're talking in person you can't fake a "lol", and you can't send a smiley face. There are so many pointless fillers that you can use in texting that you can't in a real face-to-face conversation (for fear of an "awkward situation") that people that are my age and younger have simply just forgotten how to hold a simple conversation normally. It seems like texting is both making us some of the most social, while also being some of the most anti-social, people ever. 

I guess I'm not saying that I hate texting, obviously, because it is my main form of communication. I'm the absolute worst at multitasking, so those old movies where you see the mom baking cookies, taking care of three kids and talking on the phone to her BFF Jill is not me. I can't do it. I'd be dropping batter, losing kids and not be able to hold a real conversation. Texting, on the other hand, lets me focus on one thing at a time without needing to respond immediately. A few minutes to gather my thoughts and I'm good to go. I also seem to have my best responses handy when I'm texting, because I have a few minutes to gather my thoughts and really think about what I'm saying before I respond. Otherwise, I tend to have foot-in-mouth syndrome. So for that, I am grateful. But I digress.

Texting has changed the way many of us communicate. It's so easy and allows us to multi-task, but by having it always at our very fingertips can render face-to-face conversations lifeless because we've already talked about everything. Even my parents have caught on to it at this point, and it still catches me off guard to part ways with my parents and hear them say "Text me when you get there!" or something along those lines. 

I just find it fascinating that something as simple as being able to type what you're thinking is so much different than how we vocally express ourselves, and how doing so constantly has changed the way we deal with conversations in general.

Readers, what are your thoughts about texting? Do you prefer to text or make phone calls to communicate? Has texting changed the way you converse with people? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!