Texting and the Decline and Fall of Independence
There are plenty of geolocation services: Foursquare, Mytown, Gowalla, Latitude – and now, Facebook is virtual-locating you b with its Instant Personalization. But hereâ€™s the thing about me. I LIKE that people don’t always know where I am. I appreciate that. I cherish that. That makes me a bit introverted and antique. I’m okay with that.
So I was already feeling old-fashioned when I read a Pew report that the average 14-17 year old girl sends 100 texts a day. A hundred a day. Just on average. It boggles my mind.Â Sure, everybody texts – but if youâ€™re between the ages of eight and 20, chances are that the way you text is very different.
Texting is changing the whole nature of conversation for the 1990-and-after generation. Conversations aren’t discrete units anymore. They start in school and go after school and when you’re out to dinner with your family and overnight in bed and throughout theÂ weekendÂ when you think of it and then back at school again. Wherever you are, you’re not 100% there, because you’re keeping up with all of those different conversations too.
You could ask if that’s rude, but that’s been talked about plenty, and itâ€™s kind of beside the point. I suspect that when radios were introduced, people thought it was rude to have the radio on while you were having a conversation.
What I want to know is, will the current generation be able to handle silence? Being alone?Â These kids have helicopter parents and 24/7 friends. How could they function if they were dropped somewhere new… without their phone?
One night last summer I found myself in a staring at dark woods and sheer cliffs on a desolate dirt road. I was alone on a foreign island where I didnâ€™t speak the language and my smart phone was shut down. It was a crash-course reminder on what â€œaloneâ€ means.Â It was no fun at all.
But, ten years ago I went on study abroad and had one of the best experiences of my life – because of my lack of connectivity. Iâ€™ve revisited the area several times and recently saw current students taking their laptops and global phones everywhere with them. They were missing the point completely, and losing out on so much. Being alone is amazingly instructive. You watch. You learn. You find out what you’re capable of all by yourself.
I am the biggest geek you can find, and I’m not a parent, but I firmly believe this: parents should not give their kids so many screens and leave them alone with them to make them life crutches.
Sometimes you don’t know where you are. Sometimes nobody knows where you are. Sometimes you don’t have anyone to talk to. That is not bad. That is not living in a bubble.
Are there cell phone companies that offer a teen package? I want a counter to see how many texts my kid had sent, a cache so I could review the messages, and a block on sending or reading texts for eight hours a night.
And while I’m at it, I want a course that parents take with their kids – in which it is made crystal clear that a phone is NOT a fancy Etch-a-Sketch where your message or picture disappears forever once you’re done with it. With guest appearances byÂ Tiger Woods, Miley Cyrus, and the mayor of Detroit.
Thanks to @andya, @khmendez, @prblog, @serena, @writebrainmedia, and my 15-year-old stepsis for providing data points and helping me ponder.