Thursday, November 15, 2007

Texting Gives Kids the Courage to be Cowards

The technology revolution really has changed our world. I no longer have to buy my porn, I have 24 hour access to more music than I ever knew existed, I can order my pizza online, and many of life’s tougher moments can be handled through instant messages and emails.

It’s a better world that we’re creating.

More than four in 10 teens, or 43 percent, who instant message use it for things they wouldn’t say in person, according to an Associated Press-AOL poll released Thursday. Twenty-two percent use IMs to ask people out on dates or accept them, and 13 percent use them to break up.

“If they freak out or something, you don’t see it,” said Cassy Hobert, 17, a high school senior from Frenchburg, Ky., and avid IMer who has used it to arrange dates. “And if I freak out, they don’t have to see it.”

Overall, nearly half of teens age 13 to 18 said they use instant messaging, those staccato, Internet-borne strings of real-time chatter often coupled with enough frenzied multitasking to fry the typical adult brain. Only about one in five adults said they use IMs - though usually with less technological aplomb or hormone-driven social drama.

I wonder how this reliance on IMs effects the ability to interact face to face--so much of human communication is non-verbal that it seems that IMs, with clipped dialogue and very little nuance, misses much of what it means to effectively communicate with someone. In fact, it even misses the subtleties captured in a phone conversation. Does over-reliance on text messaging stunt growth in mature and meaningful conversation?

Frankly, asking a girl out is tremendously difficult. Every time a guy does it, he opens himself up to humiliation and ridicule--at least in his own mind. I fully understand the urge to keep the potential for embarrassment as far away as possible. But is it such a bad thing for a kid to learn how to muster up a little courage and do the deed face to face? Learning how to take risks, learning how to handle a little failure, is an important part of growing up. If kids only learn how to take the easy route on everything that they do, where are we going to find the business, technology, and political leaders who will be willing to put themselves on the line for the big things in life.

Maybe I’m just an old guy and too out of touch with the advantages of texting; maybe I’m just missing the point. Entirely possible. But I’m not entirely fond of teaching kids to rely on a technology that makes it easier to be a coward.

Read the story.


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