Technology has advanced monumentally in the past decades and many new things have entered society that were unthinkable fifty years ago. However, the most important aspect of technology is not the incredible advances it has made; the paramount component of technology is how it affects human interaction. Electronic communications, particularly texting and instant messaging, have directly altered the way people connect and interact.
Today teenagers interact more through texting and instant messaging than face to face conversations. Texting is a convenient way to talk to others when distance, time, or location prevents communication in person. The problem with this excess of artificial communication is that teenagers lose the skills needed to carry on a face to face conversation. Most things young adults are going to do in the future, such as working, marrying, or spending time with friends, require the ability to talk to people well. The written words used in instant messaging are not sufficient when verbally talking with someone because the abbreviations and shortened words don’t convey the same meanings as spoken words. Although this new trend of excessive instant messaging appears to have mostly negative effects, it does make teenagers better at getting a point across quickly and efficiently. This can be a useful skill to have as time progresses so that they can interact well using this new way of speaking.
Instant messaging has created a new way of speaking that is almost an entirely contemporary dialect. Many abbreviations and acronyms have been created to make instant messaging more convenient. These slang terms are so heavily present in the vocabulary of teenagers that new meanings and words have evolved from older words. Millions of people are using various forms of instant messaging, causing an entirely new language to emerge. Words are constantly be created or given new meanings, such as: legit, lit, lol, idc, swag, dope, jk, idk, salty, and shade. This new jargon is changing the way people understand each other and the way they are involved with each other.
Texting has made it harder for people to be engaged with one another. People are constantly checking social media, answering texts, and attempting to be in the real world at the same time to i. They are stretching their attention so thin that it is hard for them to spend time interacting with those directly surrounding them. Rebecca Bedrossian, an editor of the magazine Possible, wrote an article titled “Finger of Speech” that describes this phenomenon very accurately. She states:
“We are continually interrupted by 140-character Tweets, filtered photographs on Instagram, LinkedIn influencers, Facebook newsfeeds, popup newsfeeds, and iMessage alerts. These media messages… are rewiring our brains with new patterns of behavior: we may be getting faster, but we are definitely more careless, less accurate, and as a result, less engaged” (2). This article backs the claim that the new capacity to instantly
communicate has damaged people’s capacity to connect. They struggle to form bonds to other people because their minds are being constantly trained to notice patterns on a screen and trends in media instead of paying attention to human feelings and interactions.
Instant messaging also changes communication by making people more bold. Many things are sent over message that would never be said or shown in person. The exchanging of vulgar, inappropriate photos and insulting messages is an epidemic that is spreading like wildfire. For example, many teenagers send indecent photographs of themselves over instant message because it is easier to be audacious and brazen when one does not have to deal with the immediate effects of their actions. If one were to say something lude in a face to face conversation, the consequence of that choice would immediately Instagram followers action, and that is a scary reality for a teenager to face. Over text, however, distance is a safety blanket. The other person one is interacting with is not physically present and cannot react as if they were. For instance, if one were to send something highly offensive that would typically start physical violence in a normal conversation over text, the expected altercation would not occur because neither the receiver nor the sender would be close enough to instantly engage in a fight. Several professors in the Department of Psychology at the University of Hawaii conducted a verbal component analysis on the communication of distress and anger. They say: “The mere presence of tangible aggressive cues, such as an aggressive written message, can instigate aggressive thoughts and actions in individuals…” (Kubany, et al. 338). Their study supports the observation that contentious messages, verbal or nonverbal, can elicit angry responses from the message’s recipient. Instant messaging simply causes the aftermath of bold statements much easier to deal with.
Human interaction has been irreversibly remodeled by instant electronic communication. Much of young adults’ time is being spent messaging, and it is influencing the way they directly relate to each other. The massive quantities of time used for texting are creating a new branch of the English language. The overuse of virtual communication has also made it much more difficult for people to truly engage and connect with one another. Instant messaging has made vulgar words and images the norm instead of the exception. For better or worse, instant messaging has forever changed human interaction.