Posted May 16, 2007
Cars whoosh by Ashley Barlow as she rides her bike down 5th Street in Pocatello toward Idaho State University, when her phone beeps. It’s a text message from her best friend Becky asking what she is wearing. This is a ritual they do in order to prevent the chance that they might wear the same thing. Does Barlow stop her bike next to the cemetery to answer the message? No. She “texts” Becky back while peddling down the busy street.
“I probably should have been paying attention to what I was doing,” says Barlow. “But I have to text message back while I’m thinking about it, or I’d forget.”
Many students at Idaho State University-Pocatello campus feel this urgency as well. It’s not uncommon to see students sending written messages by cell phone between classes, in the cafeteria line, or during a lecture.
ISU Mass Communication Professor Dr. John Couper says, “With the way media is converging between PDAs and telephones, text messaging will become more common.”
And why not? It’s convenient. A person doesn’t have to stop what he is doing to ask or answer a question of someone else.
One ISU student, Josie Orozco, often asks questions like: “Whatz up? Want 2 go 2 this? Or Howd u do on ur test?”
This kind of text messaging shorthand is used often by ISU students. The lingo allows ISU student Misty Clover to type approximately 44 words per minute on her cell phone key pad using software on her phone that gives her the option of choosing the most likely word from the letters already typed.
“You can write so much more in a shorter time,” Clover said. However, even though texting communicators can write with speed, text messaging is still slower than verbal conversation because each participant has to wait for the other to reply, which can be a good thing or a bad thing. “It’s a good way to answer when you can’t compose a lie fast enough,” said ISU student Winnie Kimeu.
On the flip side, ISU student Hilary Hughes said, “I feel like you can say in three minutes over the phone what you can say in two hours over text messaging.”
Forget poetry; text messaging has now become the mouthpiece of love at ISU.
“If you like somebody,” said Clover, “It’s like they’re constantly with you. They’re constantly being reminded of you.”
But just as text messaging can fan the flames of affection it can also douse it stone cold. My first experience with text messaging resulted in a canceled date. I can see how text messaging can be convenient, but it’s sad when it replaces chivalry.
“I’m sorry I can’t go 2 the dance w\ u,” said my “knight.”
I was mad that he told me that way instead of being a man and talking to my face or at least to my ear instead of my eyes. But, that Friday night wasn’t a total waste. I went to a magic show with my roommate, who incidentally managed to text message her other friends through out the evening.
It is possible that before text messaging, my guy would have had no choice but to initiate a verbal communication. Now it is possible for him and others to hide behind the emotionless brevity of words.
“A disadvantage of text messaging is that you have to take everything literally,” said ISU student Robert Geddes. “You can’t tell if someone is being sarcastic. They should have happy or sad faces like they do for instant messaging.”
Although Couper is excited for the “spontaneous communication” it allows students, he does say that it comes with a price. “It breaks down the continuity of idea. You might get the jist of ideas, but it loses every scrap of depth.”
Apparently, that doesn’t detract from the popularity of text messaging among students, especially in class. In grade school, students are taught not to talk during class, but they are not disciplined to stop communicating with their thumbs when the teacher is speaking.
“I try not to text often in class because it is kind of rude,” said ISU student Angie Schere, “but sometimes you have to.” Text messaging allows a freedom from these restrictions because it is done silently. However, a student’s sudden interest with peering beneath his desk and his flapping arms giving away the covert activities of his thumbs. “In a decent class, text messaging has to be a distraction,” said Couper. “Mentally it is not possible to do two things fully at the same time.”
Couper even had to threaten to dismiss a student because his text messaging in class was diverting his classmate’s attention from Couper to the student’s phone.
But, even Couper text messages in school—albeit not in class—to tell anxious students that their assignments have arrived on time.
Nevertheless, text messaging can be rude. “It’s okay to text when you are talking to a friend,” said Orozco, “but if it is someone important, like your boss, I wouldn’t.”