Text messaging: The downfall of man?

By | October 01, 2012 | Opinion, Top Opinion Story

Liana Whitehead

My name is Liana, and I am a textaholic.

This, unfortunately, is not a new development. I refused to admit my problem years ago after announcing “BRB”(be right back) to a group of friends – in person.

I have managed to dodge the consequences of texting the wrong person with a message intended for somebody else, anybody else. Multiple times.

And, in recent events, I sent an apology email to a professor after my phone’s auto-correct kicked in and turned the word “radiator” into “Iditarod.”

I doubt she believed that my car’s Alaskan dog sled race had been cracked in an accident.

Since 1992 when the SMS (short message service) revolution began, texting has become the center of universal attention.

Websites dedicated to mortifying text message mistakes are as popular as Facebook, whose “likes” are used to rate the embarrassment of submitted texts.

On the contrary, texting is also the center of controversial debates, such as the decline of users’ linguistic skills.

The good news is I do not have to face this addiction alone. In a world where text messaging has become the norm, I am but a mere example of its side effects.

This is what happens when something morphs into a cultural phenomenon.

The convenience of texting is undeniable. Students with children are able to discretely check in, while someone running late for a meeting can quickly type “OMW” – meaning, I’m on my way. As much as it hurts to admit, these  two- to three-letter sends can be lifesavers.

Today, research suggests that while texting is conveniently life altering, it will lead to the decline of our social and written skills.

While supporters of this claim have strong arguments, I am living proof that this does not have to be true.

Many professionals, including Naomi Baron, linguistics professor at American University, believe that text messaging has damaging societal and linguistic effects.

“Problems arise,” Baron told USA Today, “when people use the quick-casual language in other forms of written communication.” Baron strongly suggests that laziness in language is detrimental to our intelligence and that of future generations.

Other researchers, such as Carolyn Adger, director of Language in Society Division of the Center for Applied Linguistics, suggest that language and languages are ever-changing, and that it reflects normalcy in a society.

So with whom does the truth lie? To find the answer, I did some math of my own. Feel free to double-check, seeing as I am a print major and avoid math at all costs.

Assuming I have used text messaging for the better half of 10 years, at an average of 100 texts a day (a very generous guesstimate), I have sent 356,000 texts.

I can say with assurance that the linguistic quality of my texts has improved every year since I started. To double check, I scrounged through my things and retrieved my phone from 2004 – a huge, brick-like, silver Nokia.

Within the eight-year-old texts, I noticed the heavy use of “u” instead of “you.” I LOLd a lot more often back then and had a field day with “BRB,” “BTW” (by the way)  and “LYL” (love you lots).

Surprisingly, most of my texts were grammatically correct. Those that were not, I made sure to re-text the misspelled word, adding an asterisk (*) to clarify the correction.

Aside from shortened versions of “you” and “your,” that is not bad for a 16-year-old.

Because of my own behaviors, I do not believe text messaging can be blamed for the decline of man. Whether or not someone wants to be taken seriously or appear educated is an individual decision.

Every cell phone owner has all 26 letters of the alphabet in the palm of his or her hand, plus every punctuation mark ever needed – including the semi-colon; everybody knows it’s pointless.

We cannot simply point fingers at an inanimate object, especially since it has become such a necessary tool in a world that is always moving and constantly changing.

If anything, skeptics should worry less about poor grammar and focus more on the addicting nature of texting.

In March, the Huffington Post released up-to-date statistics on teens and texting. The headline said, “Teen Texting: New report shows they send 60 texts a day.” When I read this, I thought, “Sixty? That’s it?”

When I was 16, I sent more than 1,000 messages a day – it was the prime of my texting life, and the bane of my parents’ wallet. For parents who pay a flat fee for unlimited texts, you have been blessed. When I started my texting career in middle school, my parents paid for individual texts – 10 cents per text.

Needless to say, my restless thumbs were idled until companies cleverly set a price for unlimited messaging.

The reasoning behind my text “addiction” has shifted over the years. In 2003, it was the thing to do. By 2010, it became a necessity in my busy college lifestyle. Today, it is simply another way to get in touch with others and an option for others who wish to contact me.

As an adult, texting is no longer about fun, but more about ease. The humiliating aspect, however, is still as enjoyable as ever.

The effects of text messaging will forever be debated. Is it healthy or unhealthy? Does it lead to societal stupidity? Does its potential for embarrassment have an effect on our self-esteem?

The answer to these inquiries is maybe – but what is the big deal? Unless the issue is texting and driving, which is an entirely separate article, than the “dangers” of texting are less in comparison to its convenience.

And, unless our texting has resulted in an intervention or anonymous meetings, I think we will survive.



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5 Responses to Text messaging: The downfall of man?

  1. Rob Featherstone says:


  2. Liana Whitehead says:

    Thank you for your honesty. Did I mention I’m also Dyslexic? :)

  3. I can speak from personal experience that my texting has negatively affected my writing elsewhere. Ever since I first had that realization I made a concerted effort to use perfect grammar and no shorthand in my text. It takes a bit longer, but it pays off big time!

  4. This article is amazing. I laughed so hard when I read the title for the first time. Texting has completely changed the way Americans interact. When was the last time you were sitting at the dinner table and didn’t have your meal interrupted by a vibrating phone? When ever there is a circle of 3 or more people talking, at least one is looking down at his or her phone.

    I still can’t get over the fact that you used to send over 1k texts a day. :)

  5. Dr Abdul gadir Adam says:

    The article is so important for it touches upon one serious point in discourse (tesxt) composition. It is particularly important to me for a number of reasons, For one, I have supervised a large number of postgraduate research papers on discourse and discourse analyses. For another I’ve received and sent very many many SMS messsages. Likewise, i’ve been very much concerned with TRADITIONAL composition format and style.
    What I’ve observed in all that, SMS text writing has a great impact on students’ writings. I’m afraid that this phenominon will in the long run have a negative influence on sentence composition, particularly among students of languages and business people. What may incourage more people to get involved in this type of writing, is the recent dictionary that includes a massive number of text messaging type of discourse.

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