Get the message

Darren D'Altorio

Text messaging, however convenient it may be, is ruining friendships, interpersonal communication and the English language simultaneously. Think about who your friends are. Is the list compiled?

Now, go through all those names and remember the last time you had a good, long conversation with each of them about life, family, books, music – anything. Chances are a few of those friends can be shaved off of the list because they have slipped into the realm of “text friends.” These are people who text you on Thursday and Saturday night to find out where the party is or to ask if you know anyone who can get him or her weed or Adderall. These friends are the ones who are gung-ho about making plans when they are present, but when the day of the event rolls around, they send the, “Dude, I can’t make it.” text.

Why do they cower to this level of communication? Is a phone call explaining why they can’t attend too much to ask? Lisa Merlo, a psychologist at the University of Florida, said in an MSNBC article that because a voice is never heard it helps remove some of the emotions from the situation. It’s the detachment and diffusion of emotions, which texting readily facilitates, that cheapens friendships and relationships.

A scenario: Boy meets girl at party. Boy gives girl beer and grinds on her. Boy asks girl for her cell phone number. Boy texts girl later that night, “It was gr8 2 meet u 2nite. Talk 2 u 2morrow.” The same scenario a day later: Boy wakes up and texts girl again, “Want 2 get coffee 2nite?”

This scenario has led us to a first date situation. Since the party, where both people were drunk and screaming at each other over loud music, they haven’t heard the other person’s voice. Now, they will sit down face to face and stammer through the interview process of a first date. There will be uncomfortable laughter, bits of silence and random, unconscious cell phone checks for missed calls, text messages and time elapsed throughout the process. Does this sound absurd, funny and all too common?

This is how people are meeting and interacting, through a vacuous digital world. It used to be phone calls and interpersonal interaction that set the tone for a first date. That old tradition has been replaced by the mask of the text message. Conversation is an art of give and take. And like any art, it requires practice. People aren’t practicing, and quality conversation is becoming a thing of the past, sad to say.

Communicating effectively requires a comprehensive understanding of language, both in written and spoken form. Texts are messing up the spoken part, but maybe there is hope for written communication since text messaging, after all, is writing.

The U.S. population is 303,824,646, according to the CIA World Fact Book. According to CTIA-The Wireless Association, 158 billion text messages were sent nationwide last year. The number of text messages sent in the U.S. is 520 times greater than the population. Therefore, people are definitely practicing their writing skills, proving that Americans should be great written communicators, right?

Oh, wait, Internet Instant Messenger language has degenerated and spiraled into the bastard child known as text language, making all the writing practice people are doing in text messages completely worthless. Practicing in fragmented, broken, misspelled and abbreviated language is practicing the wrong way. This malpractice is rampant; however, it’s becoming socially acceptable.

Take control of opportunity, people. If Americans are generating texts at 520 times the U.S. population, why not use the finger workout to work out the brain with proper grammar, punctuation and spelling skills? It’s a sad day when one of the top Google results for “texting” is a “lingo” dictionary filled with ridiculous acronyms and shorthand with useless numbers in place of letters. Think about an immigrant trying to learn English from a society that writes sentences like “C U l8r.” It’s damn near a lost cause.

Text messaging can be a useful, efficient communication tool if used properly. The problem is, people are addicted to this silent communication killer, otherwise known as text messaging. And they are abusing the power that lies within its functions. Lord Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Harnessing technology is a limitless power of humanity. Don’t let that power corrupt the nuances and beauty of conversation and language.

Darren D’Altorio is a senior magazine journalism major and he sends grammatically correct text messages. Contact him at [email protected].