By Erica Turner
As of 2011, the average 18-24 year old sent and received about 50 text messages per day. One can only imagine that with the new iPhones, Blackberrys and other technologies, that number has only skyrocketed. It is no surprise then that a majority of people use text messaging as a dominant means of communication with friends, family and partners out of convenience.
“I text my boyfriend during the day while he’s working and I’m at school,” said communications junior Taylor Lundgren. “We can’t talk on the phone because we’re both busy, but it’s an easy way to exchange brief messages throughout the day.”
Texting can be thought of as an art form; carefully structured with emoticons and extensive exclamation points to convey a certain message. But these constructs mean different things to different people, so there can be a discrepancy between what you intended to say and what you actually said.
Sarcasm, voice inflection and other non-verbal cues are virtually non-existent over text messaging and can cause unnecessary problems or undesirable situations when communicating with partners.
“I don’t ever use sarcasm in a text message unless it’s accompanied by a smiley face or wording that’s obviously different from how I usually speak so that he can tell I’m in a silly mood,” said Lundgren.
But sometimes, it is not just the content of the text that is causing problems. Lack of response or partners concealing text messages can cause just as many issues, if not more.
“I have gotten in an argument about that; for being shady about text messages,” said communications junior Kara Folas. “Guys get really protective about their phone and who they’re texting, and I get annoyed about that very easily.”
Texting just adds an additional complex factor into the mix of communication and is commonly skewed, which is why it is important to not rely on it too much.
Relationship coach Quentin McCall said a majority of your communication with your partner should occur face-to-face. McCall said that if 50 percent or more of your communication with your partner is by means of technology, it is time to reconsider your communication habits.
Also, realizing when texting is or is not the appropriate channel for communicating a message is can help you decipher between weather to use texting or an alternative method of communication.
For starters, whether you are interested in ending a relationship or taking it to the next level, text messaging is not the appropriate means of doing so. Break-ups, first ‘I love yous’ and serious conversations should never be communicated through texting, e-mails or other technologies.
“I think its absurd to have serious talks via texting, but sometimes I find myself forgetting to say something to his face, or I rethink the situation and have different views or something to add, so I then use texting,” said Folas.
Folas also reported never ending a relationship via text out of respect for the other person, which seems to be the general consensus on campus.
“A text is among the most insulting ways to end a relationship with someone,” said supply chain management junior Joe Ferstle.
So keeping the content of the message appropriate for the channel will help you to competently communicate with partners, but texting still gives rise to other issues that are evident in relationships.
Texting lets partners be in constant contact with one another and can create pressure on those involved to keep the conversation going. But this pressure can cause you to disclose information that you would not ordinarily in face-to-face interactions.
“I think texting is a really nice way to talk to your significant other throughout the day when you’re busy,” Lundgren said.
“I do think however that it takes away from face-to-face or verbal conversations during the ‘getting to know each other process.”
Psychologist John Suler said this is the result of disinhibition effect.
“It’s a double-edged sword. Sometimes people share very personal things about themselves…and as a result intimacy develops,” said Suler.
But this intimacy can develop too quickly and leave feelings regret and awkwardness.
The disinhibition effect is caused by the lack of non-verbal communication cues that text messaging fails to convey. Try to be conscious of this while texting, so that you can avoid unnecessary disclosure that could end up hindering your relationship.
But even when you are monitoring the content, situations and disclosure of your messages, the context where you choose to send messages is also a factor in communicating effectively.
Not only have miscommunications while texting destroyed existing relationships with the recipient, but they can also damage relationships of potential partners.
Ferstle said that it bothers him when people are texting during professional events or affairs where good manners are expected.
Texting while on dates or in the midst of a conversation with someone else can be seen as disrespectful, rude and can give people the wrong impression. Be attentive to those you are with and save the texting for your own time.
However, despite all of the potentially negative effects, when texting is used correctly, it can be used to help relationships prosper.
“Texting is a good way to reach out and follow up with someone you’ve just met. It is a more immediate way of telling the person you’re interested and would like to see him/her again,” said psychologist and author Diana Kirschner.
But be warned. Kirschner also said too much texting can be seen as overbearing and desperate. Keep it in moderation and avoid the late night intoxicated texts to make sure you are not creating any problems or situations you will end up regretting later.
Clearly, texting is a convenient way to help partners stay in contact with each other, but its damaging effects should be recognized to help people avoid detrimental situations. Use it correctly, and its positive effects will be evident in your current relationships and even help you generate a few new relationships.