I went to the dentist today, and rode up to the 25th floor in a crowded elevator in a busy Medical-Dental Building, and although texting is part of our everyday life now, and very convenient at times, I looked around the elevator, and realized that of the ten or so people in it with me, I was the only one not texting. Everyone was staring intently at their cell phones and texting away. Two missed their floors, no one made eye contact, and not a word was spoken. I’m not normally chatty to strangers in elevators, but often people exchange a nod, a smile, or occasionally even a “have a nice day”. But this time, there was only texting. It really made me think how texting has taken over our lives, and how completely. Personally, I’m not a big texter, but think it’s super convenient for short messages: “stuck in a meeting, will be half an hour late”, “please remember to pick up the dog”, “can you come to dinner tonight?”, “can you send me so and so’s phone number”, “flight delayed, will be at the hotel an hour late”, or even a quick “I love you, Mom”, if I know one of my kids is having a bad day. But when I think about it, I have not seen ANY of my children (5 of them in their 20’s) without their cell phones in their hands in recent years, and every face to face conversation I have with them, is interspersed or interrupted by a flurry of texts they send and receive while talking to me, or each other. Sometimes it’s impossible to catch or keep their attention. Whether my family, staff or friends, people talk to you now while texting. Are they paying attention? I’m never sure. Even during my staff meetings, my office staff text during the meeting. It’s not about manners (although sometimes it is), but more importantly we have grown accustomed to not focusing our full attention on anyone, and writing or reading messages to and from others at the same time. It’s like having two or more conversations at once. Which one are you really paying attention to? A man I was involved with romantically several years ago conducted most of our relationship by text, confronting major issues in abbreviation by text, with messages often so long they had to be sent in four or more segments. The relationship fell apart by text, ended several times by text, and once or twice was revived by text. It became surreal, a virtual relationship conducted by text. And I’ve heard from several young friends that some of their romances have started by text, and worse they got dumped by text, without even the courtesy of a face to face meeting and conversation. What disturbs me is that we don’t even hear the sound of each others’ voices now, or the inflection of a voice (happy, sad, angry), it all comes through by text. And even if convenient, I think we have lost something important to technology with so little human contact.
There are worse tragedies as well, one of my daughters’ friends was killed in a car accident a year ago, because she was texting, slipped into another lane, and lost control of the car. Texting is even more dangerous on the road than talking on a cell phone, because while writing a text you’re not even looking at the road.
No question, it is convenient. I travel a lot, and am often in other time zones, so it allows you to send a short message to someone at a time convenient for you. But are we so impatient now that we can’t wait to call someone, that we can’t wait til we arrive somewhere to send a text, that we can’t sit through a meeting or a conversation without communicating with someone else? Is it a barrier against feelings and emotion, that people actually think it’s okay to dump someone by text (and I hear that often)? In a way, it’s a way of hiding, of not dealing directly, neither with the person you’re texting, nor the one you’re standing in front of, while texting someone else. In any restaurant, office, elevator, meeting, you see people texting constantly. Is this really who we are now, and who we want to be? It’s a little too space age high-tech for me. I am notoriously non techie and get teased a lot for it, I don’t even have a ‘smart’ phone, and use an old cell phone I like. But I think the whole philosophy about it is worth some thought. Are you talking to me, sending a message to your vet, hairdresser, or best friend, or ending your latest romance? I think we need to give texting a rest, use it more judiciously, and even look people in the eye while talking to them. It would be nice.