Tam Nguyen, Staff Writer

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In the age of technology people often find themselves questioning how much text messaging is excessive. While some – such as friends who do not live near each other – recognize it as important and necessary, for others, texting has become too dominant a method of communication, especially for teens, and is the cause of far too many issues, including miscommunication, distracted driving, and sexting.

In cyber communications, miscommunication can occur when text recipients have to discern the meaning behind a message that is sent to them “[i]n the absence of facial expression, tone of voice, gesture or good old-fashioned ‘vibe,’” says Melissa Ritters in “Why Is There So Much Miscommunication Via Email and Text?.” It happens especially frequently when the recipient is pessimistic or anticipating rejection, Ritters adds, since s/he would tend to interpret text messages more negatively.
“Before we know it, we are furiously tapping out a reply that often increases the bad feeling exponentially. Or we forward the note to a friend for confirmation of its awfulness. Or we (indignantly or petulantly or fearfully) don’t reply at all,” Ritters concludes.
Sound familiar?

Distracted driving is also a possible consequence of frequent text messaging. Since recipients often feel the urge to respond to text messages as soon as they see them, they could find themselves dropping whatever they are doing to type a response. “Texting drivers are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash than non-texting drivers,” claims David Strickland, the administrator of the Texas Traffic Safety Conference. Distracted driving is also six times more dangerous than drunk driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

A person who talks to teens a lot about texting, phone use, and their effects on teen health is Mrs. Cecilia Chivers, a Health Education teacher at Paint Branch. Mrs. Chivers says, “[People] do feel that pressure to respond [to text messages] right away [even if it interferes with their daily life]… It is important to understand that if you do feel that urge to respond right away that you take a step back, have some self-awareness, and think about why we feel that urge.”

What Mrs. Chivers is addressing above is telepressure, the urge to respond to text messages as soon as possible. Telepressure is not so much associated with personality than it is with societal and self-imposed expectations, including the desire to stay connected with people, says Northern Illinois University psychology professor Larissa K. Barber in an interview with Chicago Inno. It may even cause people to lose focus on the things they are doing, which, going back to a point made previously, includes driving, at their own risk or inconvenience.

Sexting also becomes more of a likelihood if a person has access to a private device and is a frequent user of text messaging apps. As Kids Health worded, “It’s very easy for teens to create and share personal photos and videos of themselves without their parents knowing about it.”

Texting certainly plays a role in strengthening friendships, providing for rapid communication, and fostering bonds between people who live far away from each other. Nonetheless, some feel that it should not be the predominant way in which friends talk to each other. Anna Lam, a sophomore at Paint Branch High School, is one of them. Lam believes that texting “hinders the practice of sensing emotions [behind spoken words], which can cause complications between friends. Nowadays I see people having a lot of trouble speaking directly to each other [because they are so used to texting to communicate], even though it is a normal part of life.”

Other reasons why teens might prefer texting is to communicate things that are hard to deliver in person. “Texting essentially allows me the kind of privacy I prefer to be in while expressing myself,” says Ana Soriano, a sophomore at Paint Branch. “I’d probably look like a mess in person sobbing and venting to someone, so yes,” she jokes.

However, the intimacy lost in cyber communications is certainly substantial. “As humans, we crave human interaction and to be able to see a person’s face, facial expression, and body language,” says Mrs. Chivers. “Sometimes texting constantly is going to take [us] away from the moment and it doesn’t allow us to be mindful [of what’s around us]. What teens need to understand is if texting is interfering with their sleep, homework, [or] relationships at home, they need to… put some self-imposed rules in place to limit their phone usage.”

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