Don’t like ppl? Txtng mayb 4 U

Kristen Thompson

Cultural phenomena changes relationships

For junior biology major Serene Shehabi, face-to-face communication is sometimes overrated.

“I like text messaging because I don’t like talking to people on the phone,” said Shehabi. “It eliminates the need for real communication.”

Text messaging has become a cultural phenomenon, much like e-mail in the early 90s. Assistant psychology professor Manfred Van Dulmen said when e-mail became popular, many panicked that interpersonal communication would become a victim of technological change. Dulmen said texting has raised similar concerns in recent years.

“I think it depends how people use it,” said Dulmen, who researches interpersonal and adolescent behavior. “If that’s the sole way of communication between people, then it may compromise something. If people only use it to share certain types of information, it’s a different situation. However, resolving a conflict over a text message wouldn’t be a good way to solve a situation.”

Senior psychology major Matt Ball text-messages because it allows him to multitask.

“With text messaging you don’t have to stop what you’re doing,” Ball said.

Others miss the face-to-face value in a conversation.

“It’s convenient,” freshman exploratory major Aidan Williams said. “But it kind of depresses me. No one calls anymore. It’s really impersonal.”

Dulmen, who has conducted a research project studying relationships in adults, said the anonymity of texting allows people to be more expressive in conversation. Dulmen’s study asked participants to report on arguments with their partner through a daily, online diary.

“Many instances, we noticed people were more expressive and intimate online than in person with face-to-face communication,” said Dulmen. “People are more honest when there is another person present.”

Shehabi said technology such as texting can allow people to dodge conversation with others.

“I think people are losing communication skills because you don’t have to actually converse with someone considering the technology we have,” Shehabi said.

Ball said text messaging can help close the communication gaps often found in long-distance relationships.

“I have a friend – her and her boyfriend don’t talk on the phone,” Ball said. “They rely on text messages and Facebook to communicate. They’re both really busy people. It gives them a chance to make things work while completing other stuff.”

Ball also said the delay between responses when text messaging allows people to come across in a way they wish to be perceived.

“Text messaging doesn’t prepare us for on-the-spot responses,” Ball said.

When it comes to causing rifts in interpersonal communication, Dulmen said the text messaging phenomenon shouldn’t cause alarm.

“I don’t see it replacing most ways of communication,” said Dulmen. “But adding as a tool to how most people communicate.”

Contact student life reporter Kristen Thompson at [email protected].