Texting, Sexting, and All the Lonely People

I think it is even better to make ready for the great catastrophe than to hope that it will not take place and that we are allowed to continue the dream-state of our immaturity. ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 512-513

I swear to you and I am not a closeted Luddite. I am a strategic management consultant whose focus is improving communication and work processes, amongst other things, so I have vested interest in the way people communicate.

First of all, I am happy to announce that maturity is an earned commodity. I say this because I am now >45.  The amount of time I have on the planet, in business, in multiple relationships, and in the world we live in has taught me an immeasurable amount of down-to-earth wisdom. Living it is another a story. Foremost, I have learned to expect things to never go as I would like them to and that I am clueless as to a whole lot of other things.  

However, one thing that bugs the living shit out of me is texting.  If I could remove it from my phone, I would. If I could outlaw texting forever, everywhere, I would. Seriously, I think texting is a threat to humanity as we know it.

What bothers me about is the abbreviations it creates. I don't like it's brevity. I like long-winded Russian novels, dwindling conversations, meandering walks in the country. Nowadays, if you cannot say it in 140 characters than it might not pass muster for relevant.  Young folks just haven't got the patience required to let ideas and conversations unfold, unwind and take the natural twists and turns you get when you set down and drink tea for instance--another reason why I am a huge fan to tea culture.

Most people nowadays are obsessed with pointing out how different they are, and in as few words (or images) as possible. This makes me think that we have also simultaneously managed to decrease self worth to byte size moments.  It's also worth considering (in the interest of brevity and candor) what the delineation of human communication to "as little as possible in as few worlds as possible" has done to human relationships, and why, perhaps, relationships in general have become more difficult in the past ten years.  They have, and you know they have, so keep reading. 

It shouldn't be surprising to anyone, for instance, that Ross Douthat wrote in The New York Times, Sunday, May 19, 2013, about lonely people and the fact that the suicide rate for Americans 35 to 54 increased nearly 30 percent between 1999 and 2010. He quotes a Virginia sociologist, Brad Wilcox, who connects suicide and weakened social ties.That's two years ago--how many versions of the IPhone have been released since, sixteen? 

According to Lori Shade, a licensed marriage and family therapist, texting can do quite a bit more damage than we are inclined to think. It's not just that you god forbid rear-end someone in traffic, or send boss a picture of your "you know what",  you might destroy a perfectly good relationship. 

*Schade and another professor, Jonathan Sandberg studied 276 young adults nationwide to see what communicating through texts did to their relationships. The participants were real couples: 38 percent described their relationship as serious, 46 percent were engaged and 16 percent were married. Each of them completed a detailed relationships assessment that covered, among other things, their use of technology.

Seriously though, we text, like, a lot. 

The study has some interesting conclusions. Text as a casual method for staying in touch throughout the day seems to be a good thing. Many peopletext about what scholars call "relationship maintenance.However, by and large women do not want to text about serious subjects and men tend to think a lot of texting isn't a good thing. Or the reverse, men will use texting a lot when they don't want to be confrontational, and women will think they are being needy if they text too much. So it goes. 

What we all actually do know, and some even loathe to admit, (if this is you, you are emotionally stunted), is that texting removes us from the emotional responses, the facial cues and vocal intonations of partners--and so can't be considered particularly intimate.  Sandberg writes,  "There are some things you can do with texting that are helpful to a relationships and some that aren't. To connect and express affection is good. To try to maintain a relationship in crisis, or resolve serious issues, apologize or be critical and say hurtful things — it's bad for you."

Texting has real relationship impacts — consequences, both positive and negative.  On the one hand, it can increase attachment in relationship quality. You can use it purposefully in a way to enhance the relationship by sending pictures or quick notes, but it can also be use to avoid in-person conversations.

All of these things of course contradict one another,  which explains exactly why texting isn't always the best communication tool for anyone. 

So maybe go lighter on the text, and call. Or maybe invite someone for tea. That's six hundred ninety words you just read by the way. That wasn't so bad was it? 

~

 For consultancy work, speaking engagements, or to say hello email me at louisd@bigthinker.com

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