A week ago Tennessee Titan quarterback Vince Young threw a tirade on the sidelines after Coach Jeff Fisher removed him from the game and refused to put him back in. Young ripped off his pads and jersey and threw them into the stands. After the game, he proceeded to get into a shouting match with Fisher inside the team’s locker room. Young’s way of rectifying the situation was to send an apology to his coach via text message.
The purpose of this article isn’t to pile on Young for his antics, but to use him as an example for the thousands of people everyday who abuse text messaging. People who on a daily basis abandon the more personable ways of communicating for the uncongenial text message are continuing to dig themselves a deeper hole without realizing it.
I have no problem with text messaging. It is a quick, convenient way of getting a message across to someone. No longer do we need to go through the archaic ritual of dialing a number, waiting for the ring, the answer, and most of all the inane pleasantries all to ask a quick question or make a brief statement. For this situation texting is great; however, people are gravitating toward texting as their main forms of communication regardless of the context or importance of their message. I have witnessed or heard of people texting others in situations where a phone conversation is at the very least necessary.
The problem with text messaging is it is communication at its lowest form. Telephone conversations used to be criticized as substandard communication because it took the important element of body language out of the equation. As technology advanced, email correspondence was criticized for its inability to effectively communicate the sender’s tone. Now, texting has brought us a step lower into the abyss of poor communication in which the goal is to get a message across as quickly and lazily as possible. This is not the smartest way to communicate with someone when dealing with a weighty issue.
Nobody relies on texting more than the young generation. As a high school teacher, I’ve seen first hand the dependency teenagers have with their phones and text messaging services. When they are upset with friends, they hash it out over text messages, using faces created out of punctuation marks to express tone. Often times, like most teenage spats, the conflict is a petty one that would likely end quickly when, after going back and forth for a while, they are able to look into their friend’s eyes and realize the fight is stupid, and thus they abruptly end it with a hug or a handshake. With a text message fight, the procedure is so cold and calculated that the other side is hardly heard. The combatants are pounding their phones furiously in order to beat the other to the send button. In the end the purpose isn’t resolution, but to win a texting war. Normally, these fights work themselves out when the two former friends run into each other a week or so down the line and are forced to communicate on a personal level. At that time, they realize the trivial nature of their ways and quickly agree to reconciliation.
I have also seen teens use the text message to ask someone out on a date or to go to a dance. I can’t think of a colder more cowardly way of trying to woo the object of one’s affection than a one-line invitation typed in shorthand topped off with a text rose made from various keyboard symbols. Often times this method is used as a gauge or a “feeling stick” to see how the other will respond. If the recipient responds in the negative, the original sender will say, “I wuz only jokin ; – }” If he gets a positive response, the sender will sometimes cruelly reply, “jk” Matters of the heart need to be discussed on a personal level, regardless of the anxiety the conversation creates. It is a rite of passage that every young person must go through. A text message shouldn’t give them an exemption from this coming of age ritual.
As Vince Young showed us, though, it’s not just the kids who are abusing text messaging. I have heard of weekly family traditions in which a grownup son living out of state had always called his parents every Sunday morning. That weekly phone call has now been downgraded to a base text three out of four weeks. What better way to tell your elderly parents you love them and are grateful for all they have done with a one-liner that reads, “luv ya hope all is well” Is having a conversation with family that unpalatable?
In one instance I sat next to an acquaintance of mine at work during lunch that was going to texting war with his wife. I could tell he was intensely engaged in his texting, so like a good, nosey co-worker, I asked him with whom he was texting. He didn’t hesitate to let me in on the argument he was having. He even did the unthinkable and stopped texting for a few moments to show me both his texts and hers in an effort, I believe, to show me he was winning. I coldly warned him to knock off the texting and call his wife and communicate like a man. Surprisingly, he obliged and walked out of the room (for some reason I couldn’t be privy to his voice conversation). He came back a mere 10 minutes later and told me all was settled. It’s amazing how far the simple sound of a loved one’s voice will go toward making one realize it is better to love than to fight.
Then of course you have the text apology made famous by Vince Young but certainly not invented by him. The idea of an apology is to show remorse, to let the person know that you understand what you did was wrong, that you are sincerely regretful, and that you will strive to not let it happen again. How can one truly believe a word you text, when you don’t take the initiative to at least pick up the phone and make a call, if not seek the person out face to face? The truth is it comes off as disingenuous and serves as an additional slap in the face, rendering the texter even deeper in the hole.
We all need to learn from Vince Young’s mistake. Most of us will never get the opportunity to show up his coach in front of thousands of people, but the next time we need to have a serious conversation with someone, let’s not text it out, let’s be old fashioned and talk it out.