Giving face-to-face interactions a miss?

Texting revolution

When 16-year old Prakriti Seth ‘texts’ her mother, who is in downstairs watching TV, for a cup of coffee, one can clearly feel what the so-called ‘Texting Revolution’ has done to the art of conversations.

Not denying that conversing through text messages or WhatsApp or Facebook messenger has made life easier to an extent beyond imagination, at the same time, they have made human relationships casual, impersonal and emotionless.

Gazal Malik, a 25 year old, Sociology passout from Jawaharlal Nehru University says, “The trend of texting and conversing has created a certain divide among people who want to talk, people who want to meet personally and people who want to text.”

When we go back in time, when we had landlines to make calls and mobile phones hadn’t evolved to be smartphones, life was much simpler and hassle-free. Along with being content with fewer options to be in touch with people, we also gave our full time and devotion to the people who are with us; much unlike the multi-tasking option (which is advantageous nonetheless) which modern day texting has enabled us with.

“Texting offers instant communication opportunities, often on the go, with the added advantage of no-frills communication,” says Dr Shwetank Bansal, Consultant Psychiatrist, Better Me - Mental Health Services.

“One can get to the point instantly, which is a huge change from earlier times when communication was dominated by landline phones, and one spent 20-50 per cent of a call in talking to/about relatives, before finally getting to speak to the one that he or she had called for. There is also the perceived advantage of not invading in to someone’s life, unlike a phone call, which needs to be answered immediately. Texting is thus seen as a relatively inexpensive means of communication, both in terms of time and money. This is of course, seen as a huge advantage by a lot of people, but in terms of human relationships and communication, is turning out to be a double edged sword,” adds
Dr Bansal.

Thus when Malik says that “most of my work is done through WhatsApp groups,” we agree with her. She elaborates, “I work with a team, and it’s not always plausible to make phone calls to every single person, with whom I need to have a discussion. Through quickly sending information through texts and sharing links, we are able to
accomplish the projects in a timely manner.”

However, texting has also evolved as a practice which has geared the ‘casual’ attitude in people. During instances, like last minute cancellation of an appointment or a scheduled meeting, one seeks to escape the situation by informally dropping a text, instead of actually making a call.

Dr Bansal explains, “To some extent, the accusation that texting has made human interactions’ ‘cold’ does carry some merit. Words cannot always express what one is feeling, and the subtleties of conversation such as voice inflexion, facial expressions, emotions etc. can often be lost out while composing a text message. This is seen especially with birthday greetings, Diwali or New year greetings being exchanged through texts, which is a huge change from earlier times, where these events required
get-togethers or face-to-face communication.”

When we speak of something as ‘Texting Revolution’, it is a revolution to the extent it helps in improving someone’s literacy or communication skills. However, considering the future of this revolution, it might end up making relationships extremely shallow and baseless.

“A lot of international studies have come up with findings indicating a rise in social anxiety disorder in teens and young adults associated with them growing up while texting, and not learning the nuances of face-to-face communication,” says Dr Bansal.

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