As technology has grown, and is still evolving, so has the way people communicate, especially with mobile phones and the Internet. The world has gone beyond the days of delayed messages via post offices — if they still exist– with a wave of text messaging.
However, as good and important as this means of communication is, researchers have found that text messaging has a negative impact on people’s ability to interpret and accept words. The report, published in the February 6 issue of ScienceDaily, is the result of a study conducted by Joan Lee at the University of Calgary, Canada for her master’s thesis in linguistics.
It reveals that those who send texts more were less accepting of new words. On the other hand, those who read more traditional print media such as books, magazines, and newspapers were more accepting of the same words.
Although text messaging cuts across every facet of all societies of the world, Lee concentrated on students for her research perhaps due to the fact that they are the most affected in this regards. According to the report, the researcher asked university students about their reading habits, including text messaging, and presented them with a range of words both real and fictitious.
Lee says students welcome text messaging because it enables them use language as it comes to them, “Our assumption about text messaging is that it encourages unconstrained language. But the study found this to be a myth. The people who accepted more words did so because they were better able to interpret the meaning of the word, or tolerate the word, even if they did not recognise the word. Students who reported texting more rejected more words instead of acknowledging them as possible words.”
The researcher posits that reading encourages flexibility in language use and tolerance of different words. According to her, this helps readers to develop skills that allow them to generate interpretable readings of new or unusual words, which is lacking in text messaging. She suggests that reading traditional print media exposes people to variety and creativity in language that is not found in the colloquial peer-to-peer text messaging used among youths or as she says ‘generation text’.
She says, “In contrast, texting is associated with rigid linguistic constraints which caused students to reject many of the words in the study, this was surprising because there are many unusual spellings or “textisms” such as “LOL” in text messaging language. Textisms represent real words which are commonly known among people who text. But many of the words presented in the study are not commonly known and were not acceptable to the participants in the study who texted more or read less traditional print media.”
In an online survey by edutopia.org, on the topic, ‘Does text messaging harm students’ writing skills?’ also, more than half of the respondents gave an affirmative answer. The 54 per cent respondents gave the answer that “students are carrying over the writing habits they pick up through text messaging into school assignments.”
However, as negative as frequent texting may appear, yet another study has found that it helps women to express themselves better. In the 2009 article published in a quarterly journal, Written Communication, professors from Indiana University, United States found that while men historically talk more in public settings, when the exchanges occur via text messaging in public it is the women who use more abbreviations and insertions, and who implement more emoticons such as smiling and frowning.
The researchers, Susan Herring and Asta Zelenkauskaite, found, after looking at 1,164 gender-defined messages posted on-screen during the real-time Italian music video programme, that women used more non-standard language such as abbreviations or expressive insertions that represented characteristics, including enthusiasm, sadness, emphasis and individuality. And while women were both more economical and expressive, they also came closer to maxing out, or did max out, on the 160-character message limit more often than their male counterparts.
The researchers, according to the study, expected findings consistent with past research on gender-patterned public communication, which predicted men would post more and longer text messages, and that men would also employ more non-standard techniques. But instead, the opposite was true when it came to communication within a new, convergent medium that mixes interactive television with SMS or texting.
The study concludes that when men and women send text messages to one another in a public, interactive dating market, like the Internet, it is the women who use more non-standard, expressive language techniques.
Effects of addictive text messaging-Inability to talk to the people next to you; a majority of teens about 57 per cent view their cell phone as the key to their social life. Teens admitted spending nearly an equal amount of time talking as they do texting each month. The feature is so important to them that if texting were no longer an option 47 per cent of teens say their social life would end or be worsened — that’s especially so among females.
-Privacy is taken away (must always text back, etiquette)
-Similar muscle problems that can arise due to repetitive typing on a keyboard. Texting could cause significant pain in the thumbs.
-Sleep problems. Many teenagers keep their phones on and near their beds at night. Constant texting can cause them to wake up frequently and never settle into a deep sleep.
-Inability to shut down outside communication. Texting puts people in instant contact, and there is an outward societal influence that makes everyone think they need to be accessible at all times. A text message warrants a response as soon as possible. Plus, teenagers often feel an inherent need to know what is going on with their friends and people they know; text messaging puts them in touch instantly with the latest happenings, which may be a distraction.
-Decreased attention span. Text messages allow teenagers to communicate in places where cell phones are not allowed, primarily school. It is fairly easy to hide a cell phone and text, and texting teenagers are usually not focusing on the lesson at hand.