Texting, Friends, and Scholars

I’ve written previously about the effects of texting on social behavior (Daily Universe, 10/19/2010), primarily citing an enlightening study published in a Wall Street Journal article (10/14/2010). While determining the long-term effects of texting on social behavior and norms requires more time and study—after all, texting is in its relative infancy—we can with some fidelity envision the results of certain trends.

The marginal moments seem to be quickly occupied with texting. In the past, these moments of idleness, at least in many situations, were used to get better acquainted with those around you. Recently I was perplexed at how the people near me seemed to be ever at the beck and call of some colleagues offsite. I was relegated, albeit unknowingly and inadvertently, to second priority. What little I had to say never seemed to take precedence over digital friends. Ironically enough, my relative importance would have likely been boosted if I texted my associates.

Observing people attempting to study has often been somewhat humorous. I recall seeing a young coed seated across from me in the library who couldn’t get through a paragraph of reading without responding to a text. This continued on for probably an hour or so. Admittedly, I was distracted by this curious behavior. I can imagine her questioning how she could do so poorly on a quiz after spending so much time reading and preparing!

What will these behaviors yield in the long-term? It’s not hard to imagine people with large pools of shallow friendships—relationships built on a core of brief digital transactions—and fewer genuine friends. It’s also not hard to imagine lower attention spans—and consequently lower academic achievement—across the population.

Perhaps a real premium will emerge for true friendship and true scholarship. Those willing to put in the time and effort to form deep and lasting bonds will be few and far between. Those willing to make the sacrifices necessary to become true scholars will likewise be rare. Only time will tell.


Michael Nelson said...

THIS IS SO TRUE!!! Whenever I go in the library I always go to the 1st or 2nd floor so that I don't get cell phone reception (better excuse than blatantly turning off my phone). Yes, I have a cell phone but I honestly despise text messaging. People treat it with more importance than their future.

Belle said...

I wish parents, school teachers, and church teachers (including myself) would set more limits. Constant checking messages and texting is distracting and addicting. I think it's a lot more comfortable for people to talk through electronics than in person. You can think about how you're wording something, you can easily mask or exaggerate your actual feelings without the person reading your body language. It seems people who text all the time get uncomfortable when they are unable to have that constant distraction and have to focus on someone or something. They just don't know how to do it. Talking one on one with someone always has the potential of becoming awkward for any reason, and now it can be "legitimately" avoided. It's tragic that families and friendships are losing the ability to be still and listen, really listen. Thanks for the post :)

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