According to the CTIA, a wireless trade organization, there were 1.8 trillion text messages sent in 2009 by US mobile device users. That figure represents nearly 6000 texts for every person in the country. However, since I don't text – the figure can slightly be downgraded. On the other, all indicators are that the rate of texting has increased over the past two years. Of that 1.8 trillion, one can only imagine how many times “what's up?” was digitally conveyed.
Before I proceed I will make the customary concessions. There are, of course, sensible and practical applications of this new-fangled technology. There are instances when a timely message cannot be received as a voice communication. A message sent by a phone can serve the same function as an email or a mobile device can tie into the internet and send an email. Unfortunately, in a decade or two we may have additional data available for the study of carpel tunnel syndrome.
The hierarchy of communication priorities can be compared to the child's game of “paper, rock, scissors.” Face-to-face beats phone, and phone beats text, or at least in my world. It's ironic that communication can get in the way of communication. Since we can all multitask, what's the big deal with talking and texting? Was that the blue wire or the red wire I was supposed to cut? Or, the next time you get pulled over by a cop you can try updating your Facebook page while the officer asks you questions. For those who take confession, I'm sure you wouldn't mind if the priest sends out a few messages while you are giving your message.
Call me a mono-tasker, but I prefer someone's full attention during a conversation. There are times when that is not possible especially when work is being done and communication is necessary at the same time. However, if conversation is the very point of being together, why intentionally introduce or allow a distraction? There's nothing quite as heart warming as seeing a couple at a restaurant, presumably out for a romantic evening, both mashing buttons as if they were playing a game of “Space Invaders.” Then again, they could be texting each other for all I know.
Are we really that important (or insecure) that we must share the minutia of our mundane thoughts and experiences? Most people wouldn't make a point of telling others (by phone or in person) what they had for breakfast but are more than generous in sending out personal trivia via text messaging or internet postings.
Though etiquette has its value there are more important considerations. The University of Utah study showed that drivers texting increased the chance of a vehicle accident by a factor of eight while a Virginia Tech study indicated a 23-fold increase. That same Virginia Tech study showed that talking on the phone increased the odds of an accident by only 1.3 times the average rate. Other studies have shown that it's dangerous speaking to a passenger, especially in a heated conversation. Adhering to the philosophy that any law that might improve safety should be enacted – perhaps passengers should be muzzled while a vehicle is in motion. And, I know you can think of some people you would love to impose a gag order on. At any rate, if texters could refrain from using their mobile devices while mobile and concern themselves with “what's up” while on the road, I would be :)