Monday, December 26, 2011

To text or not to text?

Our pre-Christmas dinner conversation included my dad's obvious disgust of texting and the degrade of social skills that it will bring in our children's generation. I would say, we discussed it, but I just sat there and kept quiet in an effort to avoid the debate. I text, he knows that and we've had this conversation before. In it I feel as the burden of responsibility of the technological advance of our society falls on my shoulders and I am there as the single representative to back it up. My dad rambled on in his rant to explain how texting will eventually have our children socially dumb due to the fact that our current communication skills are lowering as fast as smart phones are rising in our society. He is convinced our children already have a hard time carrying on a conversation and texting, messaging and email will have our future generations completely unable to communicate socially, read body language or foster relationships.

I text, I like the ability to do so and appreciate that I have a record that I can look back to. If I need to have a conversation without anyone eavesdropping, I can text. If I need to ask someone a quick question, all I have to do is text the question and can expect a quick reply without having to rearrange my afternoon schedule to listen to someone talk endlessly about ailments, family drama and so on when I just can't commit to that conversation at the moment. When there is an event or something I need to know, I have it in a text and can easily find the conversation and remind myself without the need of post-it notes on my nightstand, fridge, car dashboard, and every crevice of my purse. I have all I need in one device at my fingertips and I find that quite convenient. I have even referred to a text record to defend myself when accused of saying something I didn't in a recent conversation.

Texting has it's advantages, however I do agree that it has disadvantages. Sometimes we prolong a conversation by waiting for a reply than just hitting the dial button and having an actual voice conversation that would take less time. Text messages void one's capability to pick up on tone, sarcasm and emotion which can lead to misunderstandings or a lack of attention when one desires or needs it. Though we "feel" more connected, texting, social networks and other technological advances can't replace the human's relational need of face time, create memories or foster meaningful relationships.

I let go of the conversation at hand, and gratefully welcomed a new one with the entrance of our daughter, her husband and children, and then sat to a full Christmas dinner spread across the table. After dinner we retired to the comfort of an overstuffed sofa and chairs and talked as family conversations go, interweaving between children, work, history and so on. As we talked, my daughter and her husband sat quietly on the couch playing on their phones. They were in complete oblivion from our conversation unless we specifically called on them to pay attention to something. Though they may have been texting too, they were in the most part playing games on their newly acquired phones. Still, the image of the afternoon plagued me later as I thought back to my irritation of my dad's ranting, yet the fact that his point was proven by my own children as they were unable to just sit and enjoy an Christmas afternoon in conversation with family. I don't fault them, I checked my phone a few times and even uploaded a picture of my daughter to facebook when she finally fell asleep beside me. Nor can we completely fault the phones as, for the most part, teenagers and young adults would rather play a game of pick up sticks than sit and have a conversation with older adults, phones are simply today's distraction. Still as smartphone users and parents of the next generation, we will have to use and teach moderation and the nearly extinct abilities to use reason and respect. Reasoning when is the time and when is not the time to text, play and update our status and respecting the people in front of us enough to put down the phone and be present.

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