OMG: Texting and Communication Breakdown

By: Kelly Powell

And it all started with just 2-words…

On December 3rd 1992, the very first text message was sent by Neil Papworth, a software engineer. It simply read, Merry Christmas. That moment marked the birth of this cultural phenomenon.

Text messaging is the now the most used data service in the world, with over  2 billion users worldwide.

For 25 years, text messaging has transformed the way we convey messages to others, conduct business, and even engage in relationships.

Across the planet, people of all nationalities, genders, and creeds have become digitally interconnected through text. It reigns as the dominate form of communication for Americans under 50 according to a recent Gallup poll.

The bad news? This modern marvel is crippling literacy and interpersonal communications as we know it. Texting is slowly destroying the way we are meant to naturally communicate. It has bee-lined our society towards a more depersonalized and detached form of existence.

Most people now prefer to send a text message, devoid of real emotion, rather than engage in a face-to-face conversation. This wide-spread disengagement is altering the breadth and depth modern relationships. Text messaging has this has simply stolen our ability and willingness to convey emotion, and makes the act of ignoring someone commonplace.

By its very nature, texting was meant to be brief it, and was not intended to convey emotions. Originally, it was designed to transmit short extracts of information so that people could connect with each other more easily. 

BTW Emoji’s just don’t cut it.

Although these whimsical emoticons used in electronic messages can be quite amusing, they simply do not translate true emotion efficiently. A simple LOL does not take the place of laughter, just as a sad face emoji cannot translate true sadness.

Extreme emotions are conveyed quite comically through text, including the use of ALL CAPITAL LETTERS to show anger. Even using punctuation in text can be construed as anger in some cases.

(Translating rage through text messaging does not pack the same punch as yelling in someone’s face, now does it?)

Caution: messages can be ambiguous.

Deciphering an emoji sequence can be a daunting task, and be easily misinterpreted. LOL can read “lots of love” or “later old lady” if sent to a confused grandmother, for example.

What I may interpret as, “I love you” can meant to be read as, “I think you are pretty.” These are two completely different ideas, and can have a major impact on the development of a relationship. The receiver is left with an unconfirmed interpretation of the message.

Individuals seem to be spending more time searching for the right emoji to include in their texts, rather than engaging in meaningful conversation with the people they are spending their lives around.

As the texting phenomena is predicted to increase in our society, our emotional conversations are becoming scarce.

Many times, the only emotional content included in a typical text is reduced to only a quirky smiley face. Ultimately, this is will be detrimental to the quality and emotional depth of human relationships in our culture.

Escaping face-to-face communication about difficult subjects is actually defense mechanism that psychologists call avoidance. Texting provides people with the power to side-step verbal conflict or and hide deep emotions altogether.

Honestly, it just nice to hear someone’s voice occasionally. There is no substitute to experiencing a friend’s laughter when we say something witty or sarcastic. Nothing compares to a phone call from a teenager who is late for curfew to reassure a worried mother.

The acronyms and the shorthand’s of text messaging have morphed into an extended language.

FYI: Proper texting etiquette dictates the word “because” must be spelled “CUZ”, and the phrase “laughing my ass off” is written as “LMAO”. People will commonly type FB for Facebook, and the number 420 now universally represents the code for marijuana. Just forget punctuation altogether. (Apparently, we don’t need it anymore.)

BTW, don’t dare spell out the word, “you”. The proper way and accepted method is to simply type a lowercase “u”. You might appear out of touch if not used properly. My teen-age daughter taught me this.

These acronyms can be confusing, and are being added constantly. Before we know it, a text could look like: HRU SRY IM L8T BTS 420!

(Translation: How are you? Sorry I’m late, be there soon. Let’s smoke some pot!) 

IDK, this seems like a lot of rules or something that was meant to be simple.

Introduction of new technologies is always a paradox. It can be both freeing and enslaving at the same time.

We are no longer experiencing touch, facial expression, or eye contact when we convey a message to others. Good or bad, texting will certainly have extensive cultural implications.

As we journey forward, texting may prove to do more harm than good. Will there be a generation of bad spellers with terrible interpersonal skills? Only time will tell.

We are, after all, only human, and humans have emotional needs.  

(…Now go and visit your mother, OMG!)



Barks, A., Searight, H., Ratwik. Lake Superior University. 2011. Journal of Pedagogy and          

Burke, Kenneth. May 24, 2016. 63 Texting Statistics That Answer All Your Questions. (Web) Accessed 18 April 2017

Conner, Cheryl. 12 November 2016. Fifty Essential Mobile Marketing Facts. (Web) Accessed 19 April 2017

Degruyter. (Web) Accessed 17 April 2017 Newport, Frank. 2013. The New Era of Communication Among Americans. (Web) Accessed 17 April 2017.

Goodwhich, Terry. 27 August 2014 Cellphone Addiction. (Web) Accessed 19 April 2017.

Kluger, Jeffrey. 16 August 2012. We Never Talk Anymore: The Problem with Text Messaging. (Web) messaging-tops-mobile-phone-calling.html. Accessed 15 April 2017

Time (Web) Accessed 18 April 2017.

Psychology Today. Schneiderman, Kim. 21 January 2013. The Trouble with Texting. (Web) Accessed 19 April 2017




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