Texting Taboos

Posted: May 01, 2008 3:06 PM
Texting Taboos

Instead of spending time talking and connecting with their uncle, the kids’ attention was usurped by insidious intruders.

Since he hadn’t seen them in awhile, the man invited his teenage niece and nephew to join him in seeing an action-packed comedy at a movie theater, but he was soon disappointed. He was looking forward to spending time with his brother’s kids, however, instead of talking to him and catching up on each other’s lives, he sat quietly as though he was alone in the theater. Why? Because the two spent their time before, during and after the film sending and responding to text messages on their cell phones.

People busy texting with their fingers flying in almost any situation is not a rare occurrence any more. Go look around public places -- restaurants, classrooms, business meetings, church and you’ll most likely see (and hear) texting. Click, click, click-ity, click.

“I text morning, noon and night, and it adds up to about 3,000 to 5,000 a month. It is bad,” said Nikki Brown.

It’s not unheard of for a parent to get a shocking bill from their cell phone carrier for upwards of $1500 for a month’s worth of texting by their teenage child.

Brooke Smith said, “People can get really addicted to it because you can get away with it when you are not supposed to be. It is a lot more incognito than talking on the phone and you can be in a meeting or in school.”

Whether or not excessive text messaging is an addiction, as Dr. Jerald J. Block proposes in The American Journal of Psychiatry, it is something to be considered. Block points out why he thinks a texting addiction is possible, by using the standard distinct symptoms and indicators of an addiction: excessive use, withdrawal, tolerance (including the need for more hours of texting), poor achievement, and negative repercussions, such as getting into arguments when told not to do it.

More study needs to be done before it can be called an addiction, says psychiatrist Dr. Thomas Wise, but he notes texting can get out of control and interfere with occupational and personal settings.

Dropping grades are one of the consequences of excessive texting according to Dr. Tamyra Pierce, who has done research on the topic. “For years television has been the technology that preoccupied teens’ time and distracted them from their homework. However, with the advancement in technology, teens now have many other gadgets that can keep them from their obligations,” said Pierce. Dr. Block is particularly concerned about people texting while driving a car.

Young people aren’t the only ones who have the problem. Some adults are compulsive “multi-taskers.” These individuals not only are unable to sit through a meeting or attend a presentation, but can’t play with their children without checking their email or text messages.

With nearly one billion text messages sent a day, rules of etiquette are starting to be addressed since texting is so prevalent in society.

“I don’t think people should be texting in situations where people deserve to be listened to,” said etiquette expert Caroline Tiger. “People shouldn’t have to be in a conversation or looking out at a group and see people with their heads bowed clicking away on their cell phone or BlackBerry. A lot of people are annoyed by it. It’s something that we’re only just beginning to figure out, how to deal with it.”

Reminders for those attending movie theaters, churches and other public events to turn off their cell phones so not to ruin the experience for others is widespread. However, lately this admonishment is now being extended. With the help of a character from a soon to be released movie, AMC Lowes theaters use the voice of Kung Fu Panda to tell patrons: “No cell phone, no talking, no texting. You don’t think it makes a sound? It does. I hear it-click, click, click, click, click.”

Except it’s not only noise that disturbs others. “It’s bothersome because the screen is so bright, we ask people to take it outside,” said Ben Schuler, manager of a smaller movie theater.

“People are under the illusion that other people don’t notice,” Tiger says. “They think they are wearing some sort of invisible cloak, but they’re not.”

What’s paradoxical about this phenomenon is that instead of being conducive to relationships, it can act like a barrier, as it did for the uncle and the teenagers we mentioned.

In this world of technology and text messaging, the title of the 1970s song comes to mind with good advice, “Love the one you’re with.” Let’s make sure with all the convenience and fun of these gadgets, our attention remains in the here and now focused on “the one you’re with.”