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Romancing the phone

Text message mania breaks down relationship

 by Amanda Fruzynski
 published on Thursday, October 19, 2006

Cell phones and BlackBerries make text messaging easy. But some things shouldn’t be done through technology. /issues/arts/698361
Katie Lehman / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
Cell phones and BlackBerries make text messaging easy. But some things shouldn’t be done through technology.
 

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Wandering around campus used to mean passing hundreds of students chatting away on their cell phones. Now, students are more likely to literally run into someone with his or her head down, furiously thumbing away at their phone as they text message a conversation instead.

Text messaging continues to gain popularity as a growing form of communication in relationships and friendships. But reactions vary on whether these abbreviated conversations have positive or negative effects on text messagers.

According to data reported by the Pew Internet & American Life Project in April 2006, 18- to 29-year-olds use their cell phones for text messaging more than any other age group. This data may explain the phenomenon of more and more college students relying on text messaging to make conversation with their significant others and close friends.

Drew Snider, a secondary education sophomore, says he texts his girlfriend more now than when they first met.

Michael Veto, an aerospace engineering freshman, similarly says he texts his girlfriend about three to four times a day, which he admits is "more than we call on an average day."

Text messages also seem to be growing longer. Short texts like "CU l8tr" and "OMG class sux" have been replaced by written-out, long-form communication. "I try to fill up the whole screen," Veto says.

Philip Hoffman, a political science and Chicano studies freshman, says his text messages tend to be full conversations. "My friends say that I send unnecessarily long and redundant messages," he says.

But the explanations for the prevalence of text messaging vary as much as the length of the texts themselves. Hoffman says he uses text messages for both practical and social purposes. "[I use texting] when I have to ask about a homework assignment or schedule an event with somebody," he says. He adds that he also uses texting "more to keep in touch with people."

Snider says texting is popular because it takes away some of the uncertainties when first meeting someone. "Texting is a lot easier when you first meet [someone] because you're not sure how often to call somebody."

Amanda Lenhart, senior research specialist at the Pew Internet and American Life Project, says mediated communication, such as text messaging, can make certain conversations easier. "[Text messaging] allows people to have conversations that would be too difficult to have face to face," Lenhart says.

Brittany Moss, a journalism junior, agrees that she texts to avoid difficult situations. "[I use texting] to get out of things easier," Moss says, adding that she uses it when she needs to communicate with an ex-boyfriend.

Veto also admits to using text messaging in complicated conversations, such as when making up after an argument with his girlfriend.

But Lenhart adds texting can lead to severe miscommunication. "It allows people to say things that they wouldn't otherwise say or encourages misunderstandings because of the lack of contextual information for the conversation."

Chelsea Parsons, a mass communications sophomore, knows how this feels. Parsons' boyfriend refuses to text her because she gets angry too often. "I can't tell his tone in the texts and I take things too seriously," Parsons says.

Veto agrees, saying text messaging "takes away your voice. When you talk to somebody it adds a degree to their meaning with personality and tone."

Majia Nadesan, associate professor of communications studies at the ASU West campus says there are strong possibilities for disagreement arising from texting. "I certainly see how overreliance on electronic communication can create possibilities for conflict from misunderstandings and lack of relational responsivity," Nadesan says.

Veto agrees. "I think [texting] is making people less responsive to each other, and you tend to just have short, staccato conversations."

Various groups on Facebook.com point to this case as well, including one called, "I have better conversations through text messaging." This global group has 345 members. Other highly populated groups include, "I spend more time on my cell texting than calling," and "HELP! I've sent over 2,000 text messages in a month!"

However, there is the opposition, with a group called, "Real men don't text, they CALL!" The group would be proud of many ASU males like Hoffman and Veto, who say they still prefer using the phone to call their friends and significant others.


Reach the reporter at Amanda.Fruzynski@asu.edu



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