Can We Talk?

I saw a report on the news the other day that said we are so attached to our Iphones that we experience physical anxiety when they are out of our reach. When my husband I were on our date last Friday, I watched the people sitting across from each other busily typing away on their phones. Yes, they were in each other's physical space, but so emotionally and relationally remote they may as well have been alone. When I was walking down the street in Chicago recently, I noticed how many pedestrians were walking and texting, or reading something on their phones.

What on earth has happened to us?

I have noticed a very disturbing trend; we are forgetting how to talk to one another in person. Many people communicate almost exclusively by text message instead of talking on the phone. I have friends who send a text to the person in the next room instead of getting up and going over to them! I know people who don't even answer their phone anymore! If you want to "talk" to them, you have to text them. If you call, it goes to voicemail, and they text you, "What'cha need" shortly thereafter.

It seems we can no longer be bothered with verbal interaction. "It's much simpler to text." "I can say what needs to be said and be done." "I don't have time to talk." are all reasons given for the texts we send.

Relationships are only as good as their communication, and the avalanche of text messaging is highly detrimental to relationships of all kinds. Couples text each other about marital issues that should be aired in a full face-to-face discussion. They fight and argue over text message, they make up over text message, they plan their evening, their dinner, and even plan their futures over text messages. As hard as it is to understand, people even engage in sex over text messages (surely you've heard of sexting by now).

You cannot solve or adequately discuss a problem or a concern in a text message. Messaging is very emotionally flat; you cannot tell what is behind the words on the screen, which is why many people prefer it. The message reader can't see your eyes, or hear the inflection of your voice. The cute little emoticons simply don't take the place of seeing an actual face.  It is too easy to hide behind your phone, no other information about you is available other than what you've typed.

Is it any wonder there is so much misunderstanding in relationships?

I am shocked by the number of parents who "parent" via text message. How much parenting and discipleship can one possibly accomplish over a text? How will you know you've reached your child's heart? How will you know they are being truthful if you cannot hear their voice, their inflections, or those little throat clearing sounds they make when they are trying to hide something from you?

Sending a hit-and-run message has never been easier. Thanks to this technological miracle, you can deliver an emotional whack to a friend or loved one without ever experiencing the fallout. People say incredible things to each other over texts, I know, I see the reams of printouts brought in as "evidence" to the counseling office.

I have no way of knowing the motive of the inventor of text messaging. I don't know if he or she ever thought it would become the replacement for talking, interacting and relating with one another. I cannot believe this is a good thing. We are intentionally isolating ourselves from person-to-person contact and making it so easy to be alone. It allows people to indulge the idol of self by living by the desire to be alone, uninterrupted, and not be inconvenienced. It enables us to manipulate others by "being too busy" to answer a text, or by "not seeing their text."

What about you? What are your texting habits? I encourage you to take a texting sabbatical for the rest of this week. Start right now! Send one text message to everyone who normally texts you throughout the week and tell them you are not going to text for the rest of the week. Tell them if they want to talk, to call you on the phone. Then see what happens. I'm curious enough to ask you to drop me a line with your experience. You can leave it in the comment section below, or post it on my facebook page.