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October 13, 2012

DODD: Communication for a generation

— “We do it in bed, on the couch, in the car, in the bathroom, yup … texting” — Unknown

I remember being young and in love and spending hours on a telephone. Sometimes there was complete silence between myself and the girl. It was somehow like being in the physical presence by just knowing there was a connection by the telephone line.

As far as I know, some star-crossed young lovers today have never talked to each other on a phone. They do it by texting; and I mean almost continuously for hours. It’s as if the telephone has become an obsolete form of communication. Relationships have changed forever in the younger generation, which I shall heretofore refer to as “Generation Text.”

I personally have never texted or tweeted and have no desire whatsoever to do so. I have contemporaries who do. Most of my peers or those I know close to my peer group that do text tend to have teenage or young adult children. It’s simply how they communicate with them.

It’s one of the more obvious activities that tend to separate the generations. According to an Associated Press poll, 54 percent of all teenagers communicate daily with their friends by texting while on 33 percent will engage in a face-to-face conversation with them. It more than doubles the percentage of those young people who communicate by e-mails, Facebook and other electronic forms of communication.

The only love letters I ever wrote were the notes passed in junior high and high school. I could locate no statistics on the number of teenagers who write letters by hand. I would not be surprised if it was approaching zero.

The ramifications for the future will be felt in many ways. The Post Office — along with printed newspapers — will certainly not have a long running future in their current form. The method we used to have to fund 911 calls has already been felt as the taxes raised at one time were based on a land-line telephone. New medical conditions — such as “texting thumb” will probably attack young people much sooner than carpal tunnel affected the clerical work force from repetitive motion on keyboards.

The most obvious change will probably come in the form of a different form of personal intercommunication. It’s left to be seen if this will be a net positive or negative in the course of human relationships. One fact is undisputable; such communicating has been forever altered.

One of the places that Kim and I have both observed the texting issue in the workplace. I suspect the amount of concentration diverted from work from texting has already far surpassed that of the old e-mail problem.

I once sat in with an IT guy in a corporate job who showed me the computer tracking that was being done daily to monitor those who were grossly abusing e-mail at their desk when they were supposed to be actually working. Some of the bar graphs ran well more than 50 percent of the time in a workday being spent on the Internet. Some of those people were subsequently unemployed after a short period of observation.

As of now I know of no way companies can track the loss of productivity lost by texting at work. I have no doubt that in the near future rules against texting while on the job will become commonplace once such a tracking methodology is developed.

And like any other form of mass communication it is just a matter of time before Uncle Sam gets in your pocket. Where there is a will there is a tax.

I don’t know if I will ever tweet or text as I haven’t felt any need since I can use a cell phone to call or send a message by e-mail. Perhaps I just don’t have that much to say to anybody. I value my alone time for periods of pondering life and value my times of solitude. There are simply times I have no desire to be connected.

The obvious worst case scenario involved a young female whose family discovered she had sent 15,000 texts in one month. That broke down to 20 texts per hour over a 31-day period. We have to imagine that at some point during the month she had to sleep so that hourly average is surely much higher.

So far, that seems to be about the only time some people are not texting as they seem to do while working, driving, eating or even while using the bathroom.  There are already behavioral and clinical scientists at work trying to decipher the personal and cultural ramifications of texting.

I can only smile when I remember looking into the eyes of a girlfriend and expressing my teenage angst full of missed emotions and feelings. Just call me old fashioned but I seriously doubt that “sexting” will ever replace the real thing for my generation.

— Lindon Dodd is a freelance writer who can be reached at lindon.dodd@hotmail.com

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