- If you're into public humiliation and self-endangerment, keep sexting. If not, stop
- It's great to text friends, but not if doing so causes you to ignore the people you're with
- Texting's efficient, but texts can't offer the vocal cues found in phone conversations
Young people of America:
We get it. You're coming of age having never known an Internet-free existence. You'll never know what it's like to phone a friend at 10:01 p.m. and politely ask if it's too late to call, or to bike to a neighbor's and ring his doorbell with no preconceived notions of his whereabouts.
You won't understand what it's like to have to yell for your dad to come to the basement to settle the argument over whether a loofah is an animal or a plant or whether one could, in theory, set one's farts on fire. The humor of the scene in "Clueless" where Cher and Dionne find each other in the high school hallway, mid-cell phone conversation, is probably lost on you. You haven't even seen "Clueless." We understand.
While we can't really imagine our adolescence playing out so heavily on pixelated screens, we're able to sympathize. That's why our pleas to you come from a place of wisdom and concern, not of outdated notions or clinging vice-like to the past.
Really, we older humans (fully aware that you find 93% of us very to extremely annoying) just don't want you to miss out on the vivid colors and poignant moments and slow-burn stories of the next seven decades of your existence. (That, and we're terrified you're going to make us obsolete as soon as you hit the job market.)
With that place of loving care in mind, we give you our pleas.
By its broadest definition -- sending explicit texts -- about half of 18- to 24-year-olds are doing it, according to recent research from the University of Michigan. And 28% of teenagers are texting fully nude photos of themselves, according to another new report. But, to quote every mother of a teenager ever, "If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?"
Seriously, those 28% of people are dumb. They're risking public humiliation should they later realize they want to own a company or run for office (cough, cough, way too many male politicos, cough), and what's more, their digital dalliances may meet the legal definition of child pornography.
Plus, anyone (teachers, parents, principals) nearby can read a new text when it pops up on your smartphone -- how mortified will you be when your boyfriend leaves his phone on the kitchen counter? Play it safe and text in sweet-sounding code words only.
Stop texting so much
In 2010, the average teen was sending more than 3,000 texts a month, according to a study from Nielsen. Three. Thousand. That's 3,000 moments when you've got your head ducked away from your surroundings, fingers flailing, tongue protruding from the lower right side of your mouth ever so slightly, sending someone an obviously inane missive when you could be just interacting with the people (or nature or cityscape or whatever) around you.
It may feel natural, but when you're around anyone over 25, in particular, it comes off as very, very rude. Nobody enjoys being put on hold while the person 3 feet away from him or her taps all over a screen. And when the tapping goes on for hours on a 45-second loop, in response to every ding of a response?
We promise, if you text your friend back just once to say you can't talk right now, no one will spontaneously implode. If anything, your bud's call-used finger pads will appreciate the much-needed break.
Get over your fear of the phone
Our parents couldn't believe how much time we spent on the phone in the early 2000s, lounging on pink carpet and twirling the phone's cord while parsing exactly what Darren meant by writing his and Janice's initials as the points on the vector on the chalkboard in geometry class. It probably seemed like a colossal waste of time, moments we should have spent doing homework while wearing our dental headgear or something.
But voice-to-voice communication is becoming a lost art, and that's kind of a huge bummer.
Nowadays, just 14% of teens say they talk daily with friends on a landline, down from 30% in 2009. And 31% of teens say they never talk on a landline with friends. Similarly, 26% of teens say they talk daily with friends on their cell phone, down from 38% of teens in 2009, according to the Pew Research Center.
(And, yes, the amount of time that adults spend on the phone overall is probably declining too, thanks to wondrous inventions such as Seamless and ZocDoc that prevent us from actually having to deal with other human beings. But these are teens -- gabby, detail-obsessed beings with the intricate social structure of a clan of bonobos, who can spend seven hours together at school and still find material to cover in a four-hour phone conversation in the evening.)
As we've said before, the phone offers unparalleled access to the thoughts and feelings of the person on the other end of the line. Only over the phone can you pick up on nuance, soothe a spurned friend appropriately and really get to the heart of why that beezy Jocelyn asked Greg to Turnabout when everyone knew you were planning to.
We also worry that your not using the phone means you're going to be jerks when you get into the office world, adding to our bursting inboxes instead of picking up the damn phone every now and then. Our end goals may be selfish, but we want the best for everyone. Even ADD-addled, lightning-fingered, know-it-all you.