Flash backwards 20 years, long before the creation of apps, cell phones, and tablets. Land lines and paper mail were the main source of communication with friends and family. If we wanted to meet someone for a meal, we called them well in advance, set a time and place, and simply showed up at the decided time.
This method of communication transformed drastically at the creation of texting. Group chats, iMessage, and third party apps allow us to communicate whenever we want with however many people we want at one time. In this time period the thought of calling someone every single time we are organizing plans just seems absurd. Now if we want to get lunch with friends we can form a beautifully articulated, grammatically correct, pulitzer prize worthy sentence in a matter of seconds.
A Pew Institute survey found that in the span of 10 years the number of text messages sent each month in the U.S. exploded from 14 billion to 188 billion. This number is continuing to grow every year.
The efficiency behind this new form of communication does not go unnoticed. We can reach people faster, have multiple conversations at one time, and coordinate with less confusion.
So yes, we love texting because it’s easier to create plans, but we also love texting because it’s easier to cancel these plans. Before texting, if you called someone to meet at lunch, you showed up. The thought of canceling 15 minutes before was just plain rude, unless there was a pressing emergency that suddenly came into light. Now, people find it completely acceptable to send a text minutes before.
“Sorry, can’t make lunch something came up.”
A facial expression analysis revealed that there are certain facial expressions such as surprise, disgust, or fear, that can be universally recognized. Canceling plans, or revealing bad news over texts means that we do not have to witness the person’s negative facial reactions.
Even canceling via a phone call still allows us to hear the disappointment in another’s voice. So instead we turn to a monotone form of communication that cannot reveal another person’s unhappiness. Texting essentially stops us from feeling guilty.
Is this really a bad thing though? To not want to hear someone’s voice or see their reaction in person? MIT psychologist Sherry Turkle thinks so.
“The complexity and messiness of human communication gets shortchanged.” Turkle explains. “Those things are what lead to better relationships.”
Turkle believes that without consistent human face to face contact, or even listening to the tone of someone’s voice, we fail to further develop our ability to empathize and understand others.