Archive for May, 2011

To Text or not to Text

Setting standards for a new medium

Some people believe ending a romance using a text message is a cold-hearted thing to do. Others think its ok depending on the length of time you’ve been dating and the circumstances. These opinions may be influenced by how often a person communicates via text messages, and whether they’ve ever sent or received a break up text. This example may be somewhat amusing, but it raises a question for a bigger issue. When is sending text messages appropriate and when are they not?

Text messages are a good example of what sociologists refer to as “Culture Lag”. This is the delay in the time it takes one part of a culture to change with modern technological advances. Because text messages are a relatively new innovation, they’re still evolving as a mainstream form of communication. Texting is so new; we have yet to establish any type of official etiquette. Text messages are no longer limited to members of younger generations. Even though text messages were once regarded as nothing more than a fleeting thought, recently texting has become a medium for important communications. Many business professionals are now sending and receiving text for work related correspondence. Despite the lack of human interaction, some people have dumped calling and prefer to communicate via text exclusively.  For example, you may have received a text from a friend. After calling them back and getting their voice mail, they replied to your voice mail message with a text.

Many people are still reluctant to send or receive text messages, and communicate with phone conversations and voice mail. Nevertheless, text messages are now an official form of communication endorsed by a US Government Agency; in times of natural disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes, The Emergency Management System now recommends people text relatives to let them know they’re ok and not make phone calls. Calling ties up phone lines, and requires transmitting less information than sending text. This will free up phone lines for emergency, fire, and rescue workers.

Text messages are good from an environmental standpoint; they require less use of energy that making a phone call. Sending a text is also cheaper, doesn’t require a stamp, and doesn’t use trees like letters. Text messages are also faster than the traditional phone call. Sending and receiving text messages also increases hand eye coordination, dexterity, and improves spelling and grammar skills.

As we continue to become more acclimated to this new form of communication, a set of standards will also evolve that define and establish guidelines in regards to using text messages. Until that time comes, these common sense strategies can be a useful guide:

❶   Because text messages have a minimal amount of human interaction, they’re not the same as a phone call. You should never send a text to someone with news that may require emotional support from another person. Text messages are definitely not appropriate for things like termination of employment, a terminal medical diagnosis, or the death of a relative. When you’re not sure how someone will react to the information you’re sending, it’s always best to deliver the news in person so you can make assessments to their reaction and give support.

❷   Never send lengthy text messages that includes a lot of information. Most people use their phone as a convenient tool to communicate, not to read a book. If you can say it in 20 words or less, you may want to consider calling or an email.

❸   Never send text messages that contain spelling and grammatical errors. This could be interpreted as the lack of a basic education, laziness, or an inability to operate a texting device. The use of acronyms is ok (e.g., OMG, LOL, and LMAO). Some of these acronyms have officially become words themselves.

❹   Consider the time of day or night, as well as the number text messages you’re sending. They can be just as disruptive as phone calls. If the information is so important you must send it at a late night or early morning hour, maybe sending a text is not appropriate.

❺   Never send a text that is spiteful, expresses rage, or sexual in nature. These can haunt you at a later date. Text messages are official statements that clearly identify the sender. The spoken word can be retracted or disputed, text messages can be saved.

Even though there are no clear-cut rules or official etiquette in place regarding the use of text messages, here is one universal rule that pertains to any form of communication; consider the information
you’re sending and use good judgment.



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