What started off being quietly referred to as SMS messaging has exploded into a defining feature of our generation and prompted an expansion of text messaging plans among wireless providers. But how else is texting affecting us? The line becomes blurred in considering whether or not texting has become a necessity or remains a mere convenience in daily lifestyles, especially among students.
There is debate over whether texting has become an integral part of the current generation or if it has underlying negative effects on our overall communication.
[phone]”Generations change, and we live in a fast world,” said biochemistry sophomore Chris Beiser. According to the CTIA Wireless Association, around 79 percent of all teenagers have a cell phone — a 36 percent increase from 2005. The demographic of high school and college students now are being considered the mobile generation, “Gen M,” a generation that relies more and more on devices that provide mobility, and a generation that will shape the way mobile devices are continually used and advanced in the future. A study done by CTIA also shows that in June 2000, only 12.2 million SMS messages were sent, as opposed to 75 billion messages in June 2008.
So what is it about texting that is so popular among teenagers now? According to a research study conducted by Carly Lejnieks at HarrisInteractive in September 2008, 72 percent of teenagers use a full QWERTY keyboard when texting, a feature that makes the process a whole lot faster and more convenient.
“[Texting] makes communication a lot easier,” said sophomore Spanish major Shawn Mitchum. While texting has made contacting people an easy feat, some say that the increased use of texting has had some negative effects as well. “It has also shortened my attention span,” Mitchum said. With the quick back-and-forth responses involved with sending and receiving text messages, it is understandable that conversations have become increasingly abbreviated.
Kim Cornelissen, a freshman majoring in special education, said that texting has even inhibited some students’ abilities to even hold face-to-face conversation. “Teenagers can hold conversation but not to a mature degree,” Cornelissen said.
Ramon Barthelemy, a junior in astrophysics, does not necessarily think texting has negative effects but agrees that it has changed the way people communicate with one another. “Formality is something that has fallen behind with generations, and texting is an example of this,” Barthelemy said. [molly]
According to the HarrisInteractive study, 79 percent of teenagers say they use their cell phone to make or receive calls, while 67 percent say they mostly use their cell phone to send and receive text messages. Those are surprisingly close percentages considering the fact that the accepted primary use of a cell phone is to make and receive calls. Will this generation or the next reach the point where the texting percentage surpasses the calling percentage? The rapidly increasing popularity proves that such is a possibility. So what is it about texting that has made it such a hot commodity?
“I can text people in situations where I wouldn’t normally be able to call,” Mitchum said.
It may not only be the convenience factor contributing to rising popularity. “You can take time to come up with the right thing to say,” chemical engineering freshman Will Bryan said. Talking on the phone or in person requires people to be on their toes. Text messaging places people in the comfort of having a backspace key to compose exactly what they want to say.
The HarrisInteractive study provides more reasons. Forty-six percent of teenagers say they like texting because it allows them to multitask, 42 percent claim they like it because it is fast, and 36 percent say they enjoy it because they do not have to talk in person. Only 10 percent of teenagers said they prefer texting because it is less expensive, which proves that the motivations behind increased text messaging certainly do not lie in saving money.
For some students, however, like microbiology major and sophomore Molly Roseland, texting has not improved our way of communication and, in some cases, has even complicated things.
“Anything that can be accomplished in 20 minutes of texting can be accomplished with a thirty-second phone call,” Roseland said.
What about communicating with parents via text? Is this “Gen M” leaving the past generation behind? Kim Cornelissen tries her best to keep her parents involved.[tech1]
“[Texting with my parents] is kind of fun. I like to expose them to new technology,” Cornelissen said. Others, such as Will Bryan, say texting his parents is just a frustration. “They’re not good enough at it,” Bryan said.
Whether or not a student’s parents are technologically adapted to texting, it can sometimes be a humorous connection depending on the level of ineptitude. In other cases, it can provide a nice escape route from a potentially nasty argument with a parent over the phone. Rather than raising voices and by simply tacking on the “caps lock” key, some could figure that worse tensions in the argument are side-stepped this way.
If texting with parents has become increasingly more socially acceptable, then texting for more professional purposes may start coming into consideration. One example of this at MSU is the emergency text messaging system known as MSU ETXT. The first use of this in the new semester occurred at 9:15 a.m. on Jan. 28 when an emergency text message was sent out informing subscribers of a “suspicious death” in Spartan Village. [mitchum]
“Everyone’s in contact with their phone, so people are alerted right away,” Cornelissen said, about the emergency text system. It makes sense. The best way to get a hold of someone is more often than not through a text message. Unlike leaving a voicemail, a text message is right there for the person to read whenever they happen to glance at their phone. And so, in the case of an emergency situation, it appears to be an effective approach to notify students. Registering a cell phone for this feature can be done by visiting etxt.msu.edu.
Does this on-campus feature suggest the possibility of more professional uses of text messaging? Will it go so far as to include communicating with professors with homework questions and inquiring to employers about a job interview?
“E-mail is a professional way of communicating,” Barthelemy said. “And texting is basically e-mail through phone, so it’s possible.”
No matter which way a person looks at it, texting is an undeniable and growing presence in our culture, one that could very well change the way we communicate forever. Just think about Valentine’s Day that just passed a couple weeks ago and those infamous candy hearts with cute phrases such as, “Kiss Me,” and “Be Mine.” Consider the one that now says “TXT ME.” Looks like this generation is destined to be TTYLing and LOLing their way through everyday life.

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