Category Archives: Texting

Texting As An Obsession

I remember when people wrote long, heartfelt letters in longhand.  Then came the typewriter, which helped us lose the beauty of the handwritten word with lovely penmanship.  Then the telephone came along, where early “party lines” enabled snoopy neighbors to overhear your spoken sentiments.  After that, we had the fax machine which cut out the middleman in quick delivery.  Then emails quickly took control – you could write and write and get an almost instant response.  No waiting in anticipation at your mailbox for weeks hoping for that personal connection you started and which you hoped would be closed with a return missive.

And now we have devolved even more into text messaging.  Now, don’t get me wrong – I text message about five times each day, on average.  I do it for a quick alert – it’s better than hawks or carrier pigeons.  As far as interpersonal intimacy is concerned, however, there is none, except for “sexting,” which is anything but cherished intimacy.

A survey on the website mashable.com highlighted this ever-diminishing level of interest in true personal contact and showed:

For people under the age of 25:

 49% think it’s perfectly okay to text while eating
 24%….while using the toilet
 10%…while having sex [not to be confused with real sexual intimacy]

For people over the age of 25:

 27% think it’s okay to text while eating
 12%…while using the toilet
   6% …while having sex.

This brings multi-tasking to a new low.

I realize the younger generation believes valuing certain things like privacy and modesty is “old fashioned,” and these sorts of compulsive texting practices are harmless and they don’t see themselves as rude, inconsiderate or clueless, but when they turn 40 and have children, it’s amazing how many of them finally see the negativity in diminishing true intimacy and needing incessant and relatively meaningless interaction just for the sake of thinking they’re important, or because they don’t want a moment of “boredom,” or because they’re just making a frantic attempt to distract themselves from life’s responsibilities, obligations, challenges and fears.

Not being able to concentrate fully on one task, one in-depth interaction/conversation, not seeing important life experiences as serious and sacred is a problem.

Parents with minor children have a responsibility to help children curb their out-of-control impulses, whatever they are.  Make sure you have a contract with your phone provider that allows for up to 10-15 texts per day instead of the average of 100 texts per day kids are doing now.  Have them pick and choose what is most important to them to use up those precious texts.  Have them learn something about prioritizing and budgeting and making choices using some deep thought.

Parents, this is YOUR JOB:  to teach your children to moderate behavior in appropriate ways, or else you turn out-of-control children into out-of-control adults, for whom a million texts will be the way they measure their worth and their daily happiness.

Death by Texting

It’s bad enough when people drive and talk on the phone – they don’t have the use of their phone hand for maneuvering the car (and in many states, talking without a hands-free headset is illegal), and they are totally absorbed in a conversation, meaning they’re not looking alertly for pedestrians, bicyclists, a herd of buffalo or other cars.  What’s even more egregious is the texting craze which has the driver looking down and reading or dialing or writing and not even looking ahead at the road for several seconds, which could mark the difference between life and death.

For Victoria McBryde, 24, those few precious seconds meant her death.  22 year old Phillipa Curtis has been convicted of the death of Ms McBryde – caused by texting while driving.  The victim’s car had broken down and was by the side of the road with all its lights on and emergency lights blinking – a bit hard NOT to notice.  Nonetheless, she was killed instantly when her car was rear-ended by the texting Ms. Curtis, who will spend only two years in prison for this crime.

This all took place in Britain, which has added jail time to a conviction for killing by texting and driving.  Ms. Curtis’ phone records indicated that she had exchanged nearly two dozen messages with at least five friends, mostly concerning her encounter with a celebrity singer she had served at a restaurant where she worked.  That’s what was so important?  For that, someone had to die??  Death due to dangerous driving (e.g., texting) is on the level of drinking while driving, and can earn four to seven years in jail.  Apparently, the perp was a pretty, seemingly sweet young thing, and so her jail time was minimized by the judge – a sentence that was met with anger by the victim’s family as well as the by the prosecutor…and by me.

Ironically, it was also discovered that the victim herself had sent a text message and talked on her cell phone using the speaker function while driving before her car broke down. 

Please don’t think you are invincible, and the laws and recommendations about driving safely apply to everyone else, while you are “special.”  The lives of these two young women are forever changed.  One life was forfeited; the other woman is jailed and living with the guilt of having killed another human being because she just had to gossip to five friends about seeing a rock star.  Sad.

Families Need a No Wireless Zone

“Technology is the Evil Empire, Bent On Destroying Family Intimacy!” That’s the headline I’d like to put on this post, but guns don’t shoot people – people shoot people – so technology is not destroying families. People are destroying their own families.

The technology I’m talking about is texting, video gaming, Facebook, email, Twitter, MySpace and more. Remember when the only complaint about lack of communication in families was when family members were all in separate rooms watching different television programs? Well, now, family members can all be in the same room, totally ignoring each other for the sake of fake friends and useless information, instead of for family conversations. Some family members even text each other from different parts of the same home, rather than walk the 15 feet, hug, and talk to each other.

I remember the not-so-recent TV ads that promoted a family eating dinner together. Now, if you showed an ad with a family at the dinner table, there’d have to be a sign nearby that said “No Wireless Zone.” I wonder what depth of interaction is being missed because one is getting superficial “quickies” from texting or emailing or Facebooking?  On the other hand, I already know that we’re less able to engage in reasoned, significant discourse and profound intimacies these days, because, from the age of 4 or 5, we’re geared toward the superficial, faceless exchange of comments on each other’s web pages.

Parents, you must get yourselves into gear and limit the amount of time per day donated to the wireless world outside of work. Otherwise, over time, there’ll be no need for lips and vocal cords and eye contact, and we’ll evolve into “thumbs only” beings who just peck away with a false sense of actually participating in the real world.

Txting Is Dangerous 4 U

I have a friend who is temporarily without a computer, so I’ve been texting him.  I’ve found myself using the letter “u” for “you,” and “r” for “are,” but other than that, I try to use the English language the way it was meant to be spoken and written.

I’ve complained quite often about how this text messaging thing is completely out of hand, and how your children should not be able to use such technology as it occupies way too much of their time without depth and without development of language skills.  Quite the contrary – spelling and syntax and content are out the window when it comes to these mindless exchanges.  Additionally, people of all ages are so focused on that little gadget that they ignore their responsibilities as well as their environment.

Numerous states have had to implement bans on texting while driving – that’s how utterly stupid people can get.  Text-related injuries and deaths are not limited to the vehicular variety.  In 2008, the state of Illinois proposed legislation that would make texting and walking (with or without gum) illegal!  Pedestrians who ridiculed the idea might now need to reconsider their stance.

A 15 year old girl on Staten Island was obliviously thumbing away when she disappeared into an open manhole, falling five feet, scraping her back and arms, and landing in a pile of mush.  The workers were off getting cones and markers to barricade the opening, so it was a potential hazard.  However, if this teen were actually looking where she was going, not a thing would have happened to her.  Of course, her parents are going to sue.  Well, why not?  Your daughter behaves stupidly, so naturally you’re going to look around for someone to sue.  Money versus common sense.  Oh well.

If I were a purse snatcher or predator, I’d keep my eyes open for texting women who are moving through life without any awareness of their surroundings:  whether people, entities, or holes in the ground.  They make easy prey.

I keep wondering…what if we looked at everyone’s text messages over a 24 hour period of their life?  Would we find anything important being discussed?  I doubt it.  More likely, we’d just find them attempting to create a mini-universe to live in, where meaningless discourse makes them feel important or connected – or provides an activity where they avoid dealing with real life issues.

What if this teen had stepped on a baby?  What if she had tripped over an elderly person who had then fallen?  What if she walked right into the hands of a kidnapper?  What if she didn’t see a person doing harm to another (so she couldn’t provide witness testimony to help the police)?  I could go on and on….but you get the idea.

Yes, the manhole should not have been left unattended – those guys should all be fired.  Yes, she should have been looking where she was going.  That’s just plain common sense.  This would have been a preventable accident if the men had done their jobs properly, and if this girl had shown better judgment.

The Dangers of Teen Sexting

In the more than three decades I have been on the radio and in counseling practice, the saddest experiences (and the most difficult to be helpful with) are those where parents call to tell me their child is dead.  The child may have been the victim of an accident, war, a crime, an illness, or a suicide.  No matter which, the pain is unimaginable and the duration is infinite.  It is against the “order of things” for our children to die first; and it is against the order of things for us to feel incapable of protecting our children from everything, anything, and anyone. 

The hurt and rage a parent feels is understandable.  A desire to do something with that hurt and rage is also understandable. It is generally difficult to get a sense of closure or justice or revenge.  And so many parents believe that, if they can get one or all of those, the pain goes away.  It doesn’t….not really.

An 18 year old young woman in Ohio sent nude pictures of herself to a boyfriend.  Apparently, this “texting” of private parts is quite the rage in the youth population.  At some point, the relationship ended, and he, I guess, thought it would be amusing to send the photos to other students at the school.

In May, 2008, the young teen went on a local Cincinnati television station to warn other teens against sending personal body part or naked photos to others, lest they also go through the harassment that she got, as students – mostly girls – called her a “slut” and a “whore.”  In spite of her noble efforts to warn other young people, and the gratitude she got from innumerable parents, two months later, she decided to kill herself, apparently as a way to avoid the painful embarrassment.

“Sexting” (as it’s called) is a growing problem that has resulted in child pornography charges being filed against some teens across the country, because sending sexually charged pictures of minors is a crime  One national survey found that 39% or more of teens are sending or posting sexually suggestive messages, and 48% report receiving them!

This young woman was humiliated by the daily snide remarks, and she started skipping school.  Her mother drove her to school to make sure she got there.  Then, after attending the funeral of one of her friends who committed suicide, this young, tormented woman hanged herself in her bedroom.

Of course, the focus for her mother is an attempt to punish those students or the school with lawsuits and criminal charges.  The mother is understandably beside herself and wanting to lash out in rage.  However, the fault doesn’t lie in the stars.  The openly sexual environment that children are exposed to makes these behaviors (like oral sex in middle school classrooms and bathrooms across the country) seem like the norm for the day.  Girls have always wanted to make boys love them, and cell phone texting technology just gives young people another avenue to express their hopeful desperation to be wanted and loved.

It was pathetic and stupid of her to send the picture; it was unconscionable of her ex-boyfriend to expose her to ridicule; it was disgusting for girls (competitive little witches that some can be) to make fun of her; it was brave for her to use her experience to warn others; it was too bad her family didn’t get her mental health support or transfer her to another school; it was a deadly coincidence that her friend committed suicide; it is an unspeakable anguish that she thought this was the best solution for a “temporary” problem.

I hesitate to write “temporary” because, with the Internet, such photos are forever, and those who wish to cause hurt to others relish in exploiting such mishaps for their own pathetic ego gain.

Parents, many of your children have already done this via hand-held video cameras or computer cameras.  Many of your children have already been “embarrassed,” while others have become more popular.  Very few will kill themselves, but even then, something in them does die, as what is precious and private becomes entertainment for the immature and downright mean.  Parents, make sure your kids know not to become either.

Texting Can Be Dangerous to Your Life!

It was a minor news item when a Barack Obama aide fell off a Chicago curb while texting on her BlackBerry.  Evidently, she is one of way too many people getting hurt as they text while doing something else at the same time.  The ability to multi-task can be a great thing, unless it’s taking attention away from where you are walking, bicycling, rollerblading, driving, cooking, and even riding a horse!

The American College of Emergency Physicians has even put out an alert, because of the rising reports from doctors around the country who are seeing injuries as a result of text-messaging “on the go.”  Two people in California have died while texting as they crossed the street, because they weren’t looking around at their surroundings before stepping off the curb.

I’ve been amazed to see bicycle riders pumping quickly around my neighborhood while either holding a cell phone to their ear or texting with one hand, while supposedly steering their bike with the other.  It’s amazing to see, but quite dangerous to do.