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Has Texting Really Replaced Talking?


Text messaging has many advantages over talking. It’s quick, private and permanent and allows you to express a simple idea in a clear way. It also appears to be the preferred method of communication for the majority of people. For Millennials, SMS messaging vastly outperforms phone calls and emails – which is as good an indication of the way the wind is blowing as you can get.

According to Time Magazine, Americans aged 18-29 send and receive around 88 text messages per day, versus 17 phone calls. Nearly half of all teenagers say SMS messaging is the primary reason they own a mobile phone. Even the over-65s text more than they call.  

So what’s behind this paradigm shift in the way we communicate? Why do we prefer text? Well, it’s not as simple as preference. All dialogues are a two-way street. The medium through which the dialogue is conducted requires tacit agreement from both parties. A phone call achieves nothing if the other person doesn’t reply, whereas a text message conveys information irrespective of whether there is a response. It has already had a degree of success the moment it’s sent.

And as any worried parent of teenagers will tell you, placing a phone call in no way guarantees starting a conversation. Despite what they might think, it’s not always a case of simply ignoring the call. Teens – and the rest of us – often prefer to communicate via text because it gives them time to prepare a response. It also levels the playing field in terms of power, as all SMS look alike and can’t shout at you (save for capitalized entreaties!). For kids, who are used to adults looming over them and telling them what’s what, a text message looks pretty much the same whether from friend or father.

Of course, there are numerous advantages talking face-to-face has over texting. Everyone’s been on the receiving end of auto-corrected text messages that make no sense, and are not always spotted by the sender. That slows the conversation down, as does the very act of typing - few texters (except perhaps record breakers) can convey as much information in a short space of time as they would having a conversation.

SMS messaging is not appropriate for every kind of communique. An apology will seem more heartfelt delivered in person, and bad news should never be texted. But for chatting with friends, sending urgent short pieces of information that you want to be seen quickly and for interacting with brands and organizations, the text message is perfect. 

So has texting replaced talking? Of course not. It’s not an either-or situation. We live in an age of multi-tasking. Need to convey large volumes of complicated text to an individual? Send an email. Want to display videos in an open public forum? Start a website. Trying to break up with a partner? Do it face to face. 

But if you’ve just realized you’ve gone to the wrong pub to meet a friend and you want to let them know you’ll be 20 minutes late - it’s a text message all the way.





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