Texting: Does it Add To the Conversation or Subtract From It?

Here is a scenario that many parents have experienced: You call your teenager on their cell phone and get no answer. You then text them and get an instant reply.

And they get both messages on the same device!

Why, you say, could they not respond to the phone call when they just proved by responding to the text message that they had the phone in their hands all the time?

Well I did some research on this very topic and here is what I found out: It just isn’t as cool to speak on the phone as it is to text. And in particular, it isn’t cool to have a parent phone you when you’re out with your friends.

Responding to text messages, however, is a whole different story; it’s cool to be receiving lots of texts and having multiple conversations going on and multitasking and all that – and hey! Your friends don’t even need to know it’s your parents you’re talking to.
And it’s not just kids; it’s also adults that are opting for texting over phoning. Well, you know why? It’s because we really don’t want to have a conversation. We want to state
our business and move on. No time for small talk, you know, we’re busy people.

This poses some interesting problems. I was at a networking event a while back. We don’t talk, you know, we network. Anyway, the man I was talking to, or should I say networking with, received a text message from a neighbour asking him to send his son home.

See the problem here? The neighbour didn’t know that the man I was networking with wasn’t at his home. Had he phoned the house instead of texting he would have instantly gotten to speak to someone who could have completed that transaction.

So the man at the networking event, realizing the problem and being a nice guy and all that, decided he’d rectify the situation so as to not leave the neighbour hanging.
So what did he do, phone home? Heck no! He texted his wife asking her to send home the neighbour’s boy. Joke would have been on him had his wife been out shopping.

(Hang in there – there will be something educational in this essay.)

All of which of course saved time because it prevented him from having to engage in polite chit chat with his wife just to be courteous, and it thus gave him the opportunity to tell me all about BBM – Blackberry Messenger, the texting mechanism he and his wife use. This is far more secure and private than other types of texting. (That was it.)

So let’s get back to telephones. We have more telephones in our house than we have people. I’m not talking extensions either; I’m talking separate distinct phones with their unique phone numbers. Which begs the question: if everyone in the household has a personal cell phone, what do we need a land-line phone for?

My friend Hugh has a similar situation and offers an explanation: having a “home phone” tends to establish you as a “family”, rather than a mere collection of people. Kids in a university dorm are more transient, and can each have their phone without the need for a central line. I think he’s on to something there – established versus transient.

It is much the same thing with mail invitations and with holiday greeting cards. Email greetings are personal one-one-one things, peer-to-peer networking you might say, and even if they say “regards to the family” it just isn’t the same.

So this holiday season, rather than sending a text greeting or an e-card, lick a stamp and do it right. Better still, pick up the phone and call a friend.

Give yourself some time though; you might need to engage in conversation.

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