90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Life With Texting

Life plus texting. What it means when we’re physically together but off in our own online worlds.

Texting (Steve Rhodes/Flickr)

(Steve Rhodes/Flickr)

You’re sitting down for a nice intimate conversation with an old friend, or a new one. And suddenly you realize that while they’re talking with you, they’re texting. They’re with you — and somewhere else. Both.

Or you’re home in the family room and suddenly notice it’s a little quiet. Everybody, the whole family, is on a separate screen. Texting, gaming, reading e-mail, on the laptop, the iPad, tearing into a smart-phone app. Everybody’s there, but not there. Together, but not together.

This hour On Point: life and connection — many connections — in the digital jet stream.

Guests:

David Gerzof Richard, professor of social media and marketing at Emerson College. He is chief executive founder of BigFish, a marketing and branding firm. William Powers, author of, “Hamlet’s Backberry: A Practical Philosophy for Building a Good Life in the Digital Age.” Sue Shellenbarger, creator and writer for the Wall Street Journal’s “Work and Family Life” column.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Brennan511

    a “BOLD new world” but is it “brave” or just degenerative… [call me? LOL]

  • http://richardsnotes.org Richard

    My wife and I use texting as “sonar” to let each other know where we are. If more information is needed we call although generally a short text is enough: “landed, getting bags, home in 2 hrs”

    For us texting is part of a mix of tools and we use longer form email or a call when more information is needed.

    There’s no doubt that texting is part of a mix of technologies (Facebook posting, Twitter) that can be used to create a “headline crawl” which for some may be having an affect on thinking and writing skills but I’m not sure those people weren’t already affected by a lot of TV watching and a lack of reading long form pieces of writing already.

    In the spirit of “headline crawls” and lack of nuance we want to blame a single technology for the dumbing down of people but I doubt the technology is at the root of it, it may, however, be amplifying the problem.

  • Rob (in NY)

    While I use texting and blackberry all the time for both work and personal use, I will never be able to understand the concept of having a 30 minute “discussion” via texting. It is far easier, efficient and more personal to pick up the phone and have a conversatiuon. Text or blackberry works perfect for a quick confirmation of facts (e.g. what time do you want to meet, etc…) when you to avoid the longer conversation.

  • Panamapas

    older people’s Texting Codes
    ·· ATD …At The Doctors.· BFF …Best Friend Fell.· BTW …Bring the Wheelchair.· FWIW …Forgot Where I Was.· GGPBL …Gotta Go Pacemaker Battery
    Low.· GHA …Got Heartburn Again.· IMHO …Is My Hearing-Aid On.· LMDO …Laughing My Dentures Out.· OMMR …On My Massage Recliner.· OMSG …Oh My! Sorry, Gas.· ROFLACGU …Rolling On Floor Laughing And Can’t Get Up.· TTYL …Talk To You Louder! TUYHA …Turn Up Your Hearing aid

  • Sarah

    Why not invite Sherry Turkle? She has a big new book on this subject.

    • autonomous

      Yeah Tom, why wasn’t Sherry invited? After looking up the info on her, it looks like she would have been very relevant! Have you tried to reach out?

      Thanks

      • Pancake

        B–but that’s n-not the book Tom is contracted to sell!

  • Jacob

    As a college student, I see college students texting everywhere- in class, on the way to class, right after. I’m guilty of it too, but I don’t sense the same level of preoccupation and distance. Sometimes, it seems that a lot of kids are practically indifferent to their surroundings

    • Ellen Dibble

      You don’t “sense the same level of preoccupation and distance” as what? Do you mean you personally are not as distant and preoccupied as them? Or they are not as preoccupied and distant as might be expected for someone holding a displaced conversation? What?

    • Ellen Dibble

      You don’t “sense the same level of preoccupation and distance” as what? Do you mean you personally are not as distant and preoccupied as them? Or they are not as preoccupied and distant as might be expected for someone holding a displaced conversation? What?

  • Sofia

    I hope there will soon be longitudinal studies done on how electronic media are literally rewiring our children’s brains. My concern is that children who have heavy doses of “screen time” are becoming less and less socially adept. I am NOT suggesting a connection with the rise in autism-spectrum disorders, but am concerned that humans may lose capacities for empathy, conversation, etc., as social cues–face to face expression and body language–are lost on people who interact mainly via screens. We often see such social awkwardness in child prodigies in music–too much interaction with an instrument in hours and hours of practice–often create psychologically warped adults. Weaning ourselves from heavy use of electronic communications may be necessary to preserve social skills.

    • Ellen Dibble

      Perhaps computer connectedness can give us a sense of what autistic individuals experience as their connectedness among humans, sans body language, sans unspoken cues.

      • Tina

        At least one person I know who has Asperger’s (to a degree that made it undiagnosable to non-psychologists in the past, before this — thankfully — new explosion of information about it)… anyway, that one person is becoming MORE verbally fluent and more socially adept the faster that computers become! In fact, I think I will ask that as a question for tomorrow’s topic!

  • Mark

    I’m a 20 year old college student and texting is a huge part of my daily communication.

    It very useful in terms of flirting. If you don’t know the person well enough to call them, you can just shoot them a text and get to know each other better at a slower pace. I find I usually do this for most girls I’m attracted to. It makes getting to know each other a little less forceful, because communication can be cut off at any moment. If you are caught in a phone call with a stranger, you wouldn’t be able to do that.

    Whenever I am with other people I tend to try and refrain from texting other friends out of courtesy. Perhaps I’m a little old-fashioned. :D

    • Steve

      If you are afraid to actually communicate, how do you get their phone number – DUH !

      • Mark

        It is definitely all about a balance. You can’t solely be involved in a digital life. (Some people do but I don’t get it.) Real friends are made in real life.

    • autonomous

      And did anyone mention the spelling, THE SPELLING (!!!) These youngsters now LACK!? And the grammar(!!!) is lacking as well. :)

      OMG! I need a dictionary to decode my younger sister’s emails and texts!

      And I think it will carry out into the professional world, once they are out of school/college. Because once, I received an email from a MANAGER (!) with misspellings and grammatically incorrect, not to mention RUDE, in tone.

      The world is coming to an end!

  • A_hansen

    How much of this is about billable minutes? As a kid we had fads. 6 cent pee shooters, 28 cent water pistols. Now it’s kids building up monthly bills. Follow the money.

    • Anonymous

      I hope you meant pea.

  • Philip

    To the guest who indicated her relationships have actually become closer due to digital communication, I’m afraid I have to provide a counter-example. Because it’s much more difficult to convey tone in text, some of my family’s worst fights have evolved over email… and been resolved in minutes of actual vocalization.

  • AP

    In texting (as email) it seems there’s a difference in conveying basic information between two people in an established relationship (e.g. “on my way home”; “meet you at 6pm”, etc., and the creation or building of social relationships – the latter lacks the real-time expressive/nuanced quality that occurs from in-person interactions.

    Also, I am tired of going to dinner gatherings and being the only of eight adults (40 yrs old) with head not buried in a keyboard.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Besides losing body language and other nonverbal cues, one loses context with texting. It interrupts in a radical way, without revealing who’s doing the intrusion.
    Speaking of Hamlet’s Blackberry — an incoming text would be a bit like the ghost of Hamlet’s father, being a virtual hallucination from the perspective of others in the same room.

  • Sue

    I just wonder who all these important people are who need to be constantly in touch with others. We seem to have become a nation of narcissists. Does everyone need to know the minutiae of your life in real time?

  • Steve

    If someone I’m with is using a phone or device, with the exception of finding information we want or need, I will leave. If someone is more interested in talking on the phone than in spending time with me, I will let them do so ALONE.

    If I am out, I turn off my phone since I am already doing something I want to do – which is NOT talking on the phone.

    I WILL NOT talk (or answer) and drive – that’s a stupid, stupid, stupid action.

    Steve in Nashville

  • guest

    I was at a live theater production last weekend and all of the twenty somethings in the 2 front rows were texting or talking to each other non stop. The actor finally stopped, came into the audience and confronted them. No one is teaching kids manners.

    • Tina

      Can you tell us what happened next?!!!

  • Webb Nichols

    The use of any other device not related to the activity at hand is distracting and reduces the quality of that activity.

  • N.

    …and oddly enough, if you put the phone away to have a face to face conversation, invariably the person who is texting you is frustated and thinks you’re rude because you are not responding to them!! Can’t win! LOL!

  • Anonymous

    People need to stop texting during movies. I can kick the row ahead of me but the theater needs to enforce it beyond that range.

    • autonomous

      I hate people who kick rows in front of them! I almost got into a fight, TWICE on different occasions because of that. And it is the primary reason I sit in the last row.
      :)

      Oh and I hate it when people bringing babies to the movies! Or young kids to an adult feature.

      And checking their cell phones – the screen lights up in a dark theater and you can see that 10 rows back!

      I got on my ex’s case because of that. Every movie we went to, he had to check his phone, several times. Rude and distracting, not only to me but others. Note the “ex” part!

      People are just inconsiderate and not taught good values and morals! Texting or no texting!

  • Fred

    Testing

  • Holly

    I sometimes wonder if people who have grown up with texting are comfortable when they aren’t connected. I also wonder if they realize how RUDE they are texting in a movie theater and how much the light bothers other people in the theater.

  • Tina

    This is troubling and too many people are in denial! I am, as many regular posters know, living with metastatic cancer. If you don’t have real people in your real life, you will be in trouble. It’s tragic, really. To me, people are on these devices because they WANT what THEY WANT: ENTERTAINMENT, be that positive OR negative (as in crises). You become INVISIBLE when your entertainment value goes down, which is what happens with long-term disease, disability. When I get close to The Very End, I will again be Entertaining. Now, I say all this in spite of the fact that I am interested in so many things that, by the old standards, I would be considered a very interesting person.

    • Ellen Dibble

      Tina, people going through difficulties — I know the way it disconnects you. People try to redefine whatever is besetting you, and then you find that you are apparently The Problem, and better (for them) as Invisible, if not altogether gone. It’s ironic, since this happens right when you need connectedness most. You may find that those who value what is testing and transforming your own sense of yourself are not at all the people you’d like to rely on. So at a time of extreme stress you are having to make new connections. I know that for me, with metastatic cancer, I found connections with folks who were not at all responsible for me were extremely valuable. The more disconnected the individuals, the better they could “be there.” That was 20 years ago, so the tools available were different. It was a really hurtful thing to find out the extent to which “real people” pulled back. I don’t know what else to tell you. I learned a degree of independence from it, not that I wanted that. Non co-dependent me. The total maverick, the graduate of cancer. Beware of such.

      • Tina

        Thanks again, Ellen! Once again, you really understand and help clarify something I’m trying to say, especially where you say, “people try to redefine whatever is besetting you.” I know that some of my writings here on this site risk my SOUNDing “bitter” about some health care/relationship topics, but that is because I try to post some of these issues, NOT as if this were a social networking site, but to add to the discussion about the “News” — to alert those who are around people with illness/disability about what might be happening from the standpoint of the ill person, based on the assumption that if it is happening to me, it is probably happening to a lot of other people, so maybe I can shed some light on this “News” — you know, sort of like I’m the “person on the street” interview. In real life, my voice would NOT sound bitter at all, but somewhat humanistically puzzled.

        Nevertheless, people don’t seem interested in me anymore, whether I’m asking a person about him/herself; giving a quick answer to their question about my health (I write in long form, but I actually CAN speak in quick, conversational form!); or trying to tell them my happiness about any of the various topics I’m interested in.

        I’m wondering: are there some ways in which the short and quick-response forms of communication (like texting and Twitter) have influenced the language processing parts of our brains? One issue, then, would be that quick-response communications can have a “psychological CONDITIONING” aspect to them — either positive conditioning or negative conditioning. Conditioned responses can influence people’s (& animal’s) brains and adrenalin systems deeply and to the point of staying “stuck”! There are ways in which quick responses and the kind of conditioning they elicit can lead to certain addictions, including those that do not involve a substance — for instance, the addiction to a relationship, to one’s own victimhood (The Betrayal Bonds by Patrick Carnes).

        There was an excellent call from a listener who asked about the effect on children’s language development when parents talk on their cell phones while around their young children, instead of talking to their kids as they would have in the past! I’m wondering if there is even an effect on adults who USE these various verbal communication tools, that, in turn, also affects their relationships with other adults — not as exhibited in something as evident as rudeness, but in the very WAY in which they hear and process language and its meanings and “imperatives”.

        In other words, if you are a regular verbal-communication-multi-tasker, do some psychological matters now get processed with less sophistication and subtlety? As an example, if you are prone to feeling overly responsible, would a language processing problem cause you to feel guilty when you shouldn’t — and more quickly and powerfully — when a conversation you are not REALLY attending to mentions certain aspects of illness? Is the ONLY thing inaccurate about your statement, “people try to redefine what is besetting you”, the word “try”? In other words, does a fairly new (to adults), deeply-entrenched habit of verbal multi-tasking make people’s responses so quick and primal that there is really NO issue of “TRYING” to redefine what is affecting the ill person? Instead, does the verbal multi-tasker assign a meaning to what they are hearing from a more REACTIVE, primal place in their brain wiring — is their response not one of actively and thoughtfully REDEFINING, but more a REACTIVE CATEGORIZING of the speaker and/or the speaker’s “intentions”, AND in ways that, thru new habit, mean that the categorization gets filed away fast AND intently. AND, does the filing get done from the least sophisticated understanding of verbal subtleties, so that some CHILDHOOD reactions might be used in the categorizing process?! In other words, if as a child, a person heard her parents talking about divorce as if it were shameful, then perhaps decades later, that child, now an adult, with a newly re-wired verbal multi-tasking brain, might hear another adult who is describing their divorce, but instead of listening to the actual circumstances being described (he’s happier; I’m happier), assigns the conversation, and even the speaker, to a “shame/should be ashamed” category, where it gets stuck? Or, here’s another hypothetical example I’m thinking of because I just watched a brilliant show about the music of the Civil Rights era: a conversation might be about a Civil Rights protester, but the verbal multi-tasking brain might only hear that someone being described by a speaker was a “protester” which then gets brain filed under “difficult person” — which, of course, is the OPPOSITE designation that the person deserves; the opposite meaning of the speaker’s intent!!!

        These are only questions; but, once again, thanks for the catalyst! Once again, though, I’m posting hours after the bulk of the discussion!

        • Nicotti

          I don’t know if my story has any baring on what your opinions are here, but I’ll share anyways.  I didn’t own a text capable phone till after I met my last gf, I really prefer phone calls or in person stuff.  A month after we started dating she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer.  When she was going through her surgeries and her high dose chemo 3 week long cycles, texting was pretty much the only way I was able to communicate with her, especially for the last two months of her chemo where she was sick constantly and had a seriously compromised immune system.  Had it not been for the ability to communicate that way, even though it isn’t very satisfying, our relationship probably would have died pretty quickly, more importantly she wouldn’t have been able to get all the support from her friends and myself that she did.

          On a side note: we did end up breaking up later on after she beat the breast cancer, but it wasn’t the cancer that caused that, nor texting.

  • laurie

    Texting while you’re socializing face to face, is rude – regardless of how common it is. If everybody is doing it, then everybody is being rude. It may be more and more commonplace, but that doesn’t make it any less impolite.

  • Sea1851

    The texting craze, often an exercise in triviality and irrelevance, was foreseen by Henry Thoreau n the 180′ss. “We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph between Maine and Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing worthwhile to communicate to each other. Either is in the condition of the young man who wished to be introduced to a distinguished deaf woman, but when one end of her ear-trrumpet was put into his hand, found he had nothing to say.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mark-DeYoung/1177085122 Mark DeYoung

    I was at a 4th of July Fireworks event and watched 5 teens stand around in a circle throughtout the entire event… not even looking at each other. Why were they even there? They could have been living in cardboard boxes in different zip codes as long as they had enough bars… they looked is so lame. It’ls like they have been assimilated by the cell phone collective.

    • Nicotti

      For the past two years, I’ve sat beside or behind someone at 4th of July fireworks celebrations or been at concerts, that watch the whole thing on the digital displays of their phones, with they video it to post on youtube and etc.  I always have the urge to tell them they would enjoy it more if they just watched it with they’re own eyes.  That guy 3 rows up is probably going to post his vid of this event too, you don’t have to.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Solitude may become a skill relegated to the past. The other day I was feeling sick, so I took a bath, which puts me out of range of the phone. The ring exactly matches the reverberation of running water. When I returned to my office, the phone rang. It was a client I haven’t seen for over a decade. “Are you okay?” She had called three or four times, I could see from caller ID, while I was soaking. She had apparently really been concerned, because when I closed with Happy Mother’s Day, she suddenly opened up, or we both did, because last we spoke, she mentioned her child. And once she found out I had a headache, she was okay. Next thing I know, it seems ALL my clients in this part of the state know about my headache. So it seems.
    A decade ago, there would be no expectation that I be nonstop connected. And I don’t even have a Blackberry or anything like it.

    • Tina

      Ellen, Your story makes me feel better! Ill keep it parked away as an antidote to some of my experiences! Remembering your story about your headache might help some of my heartache (which I DO try to “manage” by intentionally thinking about different paradigms — and this is definitely one of them!! Thanks, Ellen!

  • Joeaverage

    I don’t even own a cellphone. Don’t want the cost and my friends/family know where I am at certain times of the day. They can e-mail me or call me at work or home. I still have an old ICQ account but all my friends have migrated to Facebook and Twitter which I’ve tried but REALLY don’t like. I have all sorts of gadgets – a Mint Linux laptop that I setup myself and I am the technology guy at work – but I don’t desire a communication gadget. My wife does have a cellphone that BARELY texts but we never use it except when one of us is going to be away from home with the kids – soccer or scouts. $15 per month.

  • Tina

    There is a financial-status divide. Many older women cannot afford to go digital, no matter what devices are available. Yet, many of these same women have trouble linking up with other people, even women like themselves.

  • listener in Somerville

    I’m concerned about the driving and texting I see all around town, even after it was legally. Here the strategy of self-modulation that the guests speak about seems to be insufficient. Are there alternate external methods of monitoring we need to stop ourselves there (technological or legal)?

  • W Fu

    Great topic. How about the impact on adults socializing? This past Saturday I took my daughter to her ballet class. As expected, roomful of parents were waiting outside and at some point, I noticed that all the parents were looking down at their phones instead of chatting or socializing. I am not a particularly social butterfly, but having a phone or whatever electronic gadgets gives us one more excuse not to talk to the people next to us.

    • DH

      @ W Fu – …not to mention the effect this has on the children who think their parents are there for them. What message are we sending to our kids?!

  • Mguth2241

    NPR recently linked to an article whose main point is summed up here “Technology is just an amplifier of human intent and capacity,” Kentaro Toyama says. In other words, if your family life has huge gaps, technology will amplify that lack. If you tend to be inconsiderate of others, technology will amplify that tendency. If you are good at bringing people together and building community, technology tends to amplify that. See the clip http://humanosphere.kplu.org/2011/05/geek-heretic-technology-cannot-end-poverty/

    • Nancela

      I’m interested to check that out, @Mguth2241:disqus .

  • Anonymous

    I hate customized ring tones. Not everything needs to be a vehicle for self expression.

    And people talking on cellphones while on public transportation are annoying too.

    • Ellen Dibble

      Ring tones can be hilarious in courtrooms. I transcribe court hearings, and ring tones are supposed to be off, but of course there are exceptions, and even the judge can forget, and there you have a sprightly rendition of Yankee Doodle or something, right in the middle of someone having a meltdown under cross-examination or bursting into tears. Wow.

  • Corrado

    http://motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2011/04/its-not-just-rude-its-ruining-your-brain

    The above article discusses the CONCLUSIVE evidence that the supposed skill of “multitasking” your guests have described is actually not real. That is to say, people of any generation who are distracted by one thing are necessarily less attentive toward another– people who are less distracted by technology are, on the whole, BETTER at multitasking than those who are constantly using devices etc. There is NO WAY AROUND this– it is scientific fact– there IS NO WAY OF DEVELOPING FLUENCY in multitasking.

  • Mac

    The one manner that is often overlooked are people’s ringtones and volume in the workplace. I do not need or want to know how much you like a country or Lady Gaga song or that you like to hear the sounds of duck quacking. Also, too much gadgetry in the workplace can lead to excessive silliness. I was in a meeting last week where a coworker got up in the middle of the meeting and took a picture of herself with the rest of my colleagues in the background because she wanted to let her girlfriend know she was in a meeting. Technology should not trump the consideration for those around you.

  • Rex

    I’ve had face to face conversations with people who completely shut me out and go to town on their phones with no warning or apologies. Now that is rude.

    • Nicotti

      Yeah, I was on a date once with my ex-gf, and she would constantly switch from our conversation to her text messages and back.  I told her to quit it or the date and our relationship was over.  I told rude and disrespectful to me and if she couldn’t let those texts and calls go to voicemail for a couple hours so we could have private “us” time, then I wasn’t interested in dating her.

  • AP

    I must say, texting keeps me close to my childhood friend of 30 years, who lives across the country. Texting overcomes the problems of time- difference and mutual availability. Because we already have a familiar, close relationship, we can often send just two or three word quips which send the other into laughter.

  • Ms5515

    If you want to get someone’s attention text them. While your trying to have a face to face conversation, just start texting them when they interrupt to text or read their device.

  • Kim

    I am intrigued by the phenomenon that democracy has reached the Middle East and beyond via Facebook and Twitter; however, I am disturbed to see how it is showing up in our day-to-day via daily “posts” on Facebook as my “friends” spew their political believes and rants out to the greater audience. When did we all lose focus on that Golden Rule of not talking politics unless you know your audience and their beliefs? When did it become socially acceptable to vomit your political beliefs on anyone who just so happens to read your post?

    • Anonymous

      Where is the line between advocating democracy and spewing political beliefs?

  • Chris

    As far as being able to pay attention to other people while engaging in social media, I still have trouble with that sometimes. I’m listening to On Point at work now, and I have to mute the show when I really need to concentrate. Are there any studies that show how much of our mind is engaged when we’re doing two or more things at once? If we do two tasks as once, are we really able to concentrate on each task 50-50, or do we lose something when we have to switch all the time?

    • Corrado

      Look the article I just linked to in an earlier post. http://motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2011/04/its-not-just-rude-its-ruining-your-brain

      Stanford psychologist Clifford Nass: “there’s no contradictory evidence to this for about the last 15, 20
      years. Everything [as] simple as the little feed at the bottom of a news
      show, the little text, studies have shown that that distracts people.
      They remember both less. Studies on asking people to read something and
      at the same time listen to something show those effects. So there’s
      really, in some sense, no surprise there. There’s denial, but there’s no
      surprise.”

  • RD

    I agree with one of your callers – 90% of stuff on facebook is noise. Facebook may help one connect with old friends, but what really matters is how they connect offline, after finding each-other. In that way, texting is more personal and may result in to a real conversation.
    Having said that, when you are with somebody – with your family, friends – it is rude to be texting.
    I think it a responsibility of parents to let their kids know the simple rules of face-to-face socializing (and follow those rules themselves).

    • Anonymous

      Only 90%? As I’m sure everyone will be interested, I’m going to have salmon for lunch.

  • Msultzbach

    Not that long ago, NPR aired a show exploring our ability or inability to multi-task in which your guests suggested that no one can concentrate on more than one thing well. My experience has been that being in the same room with someone who is too distracted by their devices is unsatisfying.
    Mary from Boxford

  • guest

    Hi,
    I have no tolerance for texting while face-to-face with someone. And also how has this all become OK in the workplace? Where is the anti-facebook/twitter culture? Are they offline altogether?

  • anon

    I’ve just trained myself to text under the table without looking. Now I can keep up with the digital world as well as the real world!

  • Ellen Dibble

    All of us commenting here are both “texting” and listening to someone else’s conversation at the same time.
    It’s a new art form. Simultaneous dialogues.

  • B. D. Banghart

    I find that the very concept of rudeness seems to be changing. There are times when I ask people not to use their phone or speak loudly on it in the library, for example, and have them respond, “Hey, how rude of you. I’m having a conversation here.” Very frustrating.

  • Nancela

    To the guest who posed various tech streams as the sole option to passive TV watching as a family: There aren’t more options than those two? Higglety Pigglety Pop! There must be more to life.

  • Mezzo

    Another thing that bothers me about this addiction to online “socializing” is the assumptiuon that most of my student colleagues here at the seminary have that “everyone” is on Facebook. They have stopped communicating in almost every other way assuming that you will be looking at their business on Faebook regularly. Even when you get to the cafeteria and are conversing with someone in person, they will assume that you already know things about them or others that have been posted online.

  • Ellen Dibble

    A caller is saying that infants need one-on-one contact with mothers to learn interactivity/trust. And she says one needs that in junior high in order to learn “boundaries.” This is a wow moment for me. Really? What’s that about. It seems texting might be defined as an uninvited intrusion, crossing of boundaries.

  • Carabeth

    I do not believe it is alright to use portable devices when you are conducting business. I believe the same goes for any situation when you might be called upon to provide feedback to the topic at hand. Unless you are searching for the answer to a question, a cell phone or ipad out could indicate you do not care about the conversation at hand. Particularly in a situation involving classrooms and study, “being connected” could just lead to detention or other reprimands.

    • Michele

      I completely agree. I was irked by the personal trainer who called and said because his clients use their blackberrys it’s fine for him to do the same. Sorry – if I am paying for someone’s time they don’t get to schedule other appointments or text their wife. It’s just plain rude and disrespectful. I have had PTs who have texted and I have stopped using their service as a result – my money, my time.

  • imPatient

    The caller calling about medical profession being afflicted by this didn’t half come close to my grievance in that department. A well-established internist I saw once and will never see again took no less than 4 phone calls from his teenaged daughter during my hour appointment, never asked me half the questions he should have asked about my complaint, but took the time while he wasn’t on the phone to explain what was going on with his daughter that was causing all the phone calls. I say, a doctor’s child, especially teenaged, needs to understand the nature of her father’s profession, and while he’s seeing a patient she can talk to the receptionist if her father really insists that she be allowed to interrupt his business at will, and his personal business has no place in my first appointment with him.

  • RLarschan

    I see so many nanny’s and babysitters texting on playgrounds and in the library. Surely the children they are in charge of, are loosing out. I wonder how many parents are aware of this. Parents are paying a lot of money for these services.

    • Old Fashioned Mum

      @8fcf4aefaaab94b0654c6f180b51920d:disqus  – I agree. What frightens me more is the number of parents who are sitting at playgrounds, picking their kids up at school, sitting in on baseball games or gymnastics classes who are so absorbed in their smart phones. I see this all the time at the local swimming pool and beaches. Parents lying in the sand, paying attention to only their phones, while their kids are asking me to play with them because I’m the only parent in the water with my kid. What kind of generation are we raising?

  • Doug in Salem, MA

    If in the rare occasion I need to text or email from my smart phone, I apologize to any friends present, and if possible I’ll move to the side. I think most of this area of intrusion happened in business first. Who had the first Blackberries- high-powered (or so they thought some times) business men and women. Then came companies who required and expected 24/7 responses and availability. My wife has been intruded upon via phone/text/email more times than I can count: 99% has been her work. If she were a surgeon on call and a patient was on the table I’d understand, but believe me, that’s not the case. As one who does yoga and meditates, I definitely think we need LESS electronic distraction than more, and have seen how easy it is to allow it to suck you in.

    As far as Facebook, certainly there are many ways to hide behind it, overuse it, or just use it as a platform to highlight the meaningless details of life. Seen it for sure. But I have been a stay at home Dad for almost five years now (less now that my son is in pre-school) and in between I’m a freelancer. I find that especially stay at home parenting, as social as it can sometimes be, can also be highly isolating! So many days can pass where it’s just you and your child (for any number of reasons you can’t control). Facebook should NOT a way to distract yourself from parenting- not for me anyway. But it can be a way of checking in with friends near and far throughout your week, and actually have a bit of outside adult contact. I can be helpful to get ideas when you feel stuck. And though I’m not a fan of venting online, I know a few Mom’s that feel the need to do it occasionally, and maybe it saves them from losing it with their kids.

  • John of Medford

    I admit it, I’m clueless about texting. But, I am curious – if there were some sort of disruption or event which knocks out cell phone service (like in parts of Japan after the earthquake and in the NYC area on 9/11) does that also knock out being able to send and receive texts?
    If so, I would be curious on the effect it would have on people, especially, younger people.

    • autonomous

      I think texting would be “broken” too, if the cell service went out.

      Unless people were in the vicinity of wi-fi, none of their fancy-shmancy telephone services would be operational.

  • autonomous

    To the moderators/web people of onpoint.

    Can I have an “Unlike” button? I would like to unlike my liking of someone’s post, if I liked the post by mistake. I didn’t mean to “like it”, I mean to reply to it, but not to “like” it. But because the buttons are so close by, I fat-fingered the “like” button.

    That’s another one of those things that I can see becoming a nuisance!

    The “LIKE” Button!

    May I also have a “Dislike” button please?

    Thank you.

    • Rev Brett

      I dislike this post! (See, that wasn’t hard…unless you wish to be even more anonymous than your sobriquet already makes you?)

  • autonomous

    Also, you shouldn’t be able to “like” your own posts! Cause I most certainly like EVERYTHING I say. :)

  • MarkKnoeller

    Weather it’s Pong, Palm, or mom the rules of polite interpersonal communication apply. Giving our full attention to our tasks or conversations is important.

  • DC McGuire

    As a neuroscientist specializing in neuroplasticity and epeigenetics and I’m extremely worried about the emotional, physical and societal price texting is exacting from humanity. Only one example are the data finding that only 7% of message is in the
    words that are actually spoken. 93% of meaning is expressed in body language and tone of voice. Screen communications remove humanity, reduce accurate interactions which are related to measurable reductions in empathy, and that’s just a tip of the iceberg. The 2010 Kaiser Foundation on Media and Children is an eye opener!

  • JamesDee

    In regards to doctors: my primary care physician also
    switched over to a networked medical system, and it doesn’t bother me one bit
    that they are typing my information while I explain my issue.

    This may come from the fact that I have worked in the
    customer service industry my whole life and when we are working with customers,
    we essentially have to document their issue within the system.

    Hence, when the doctor is mashing away at the keyboard
    within my record while I am detailing my issue, I know that he is listening
    simply because he has to document it. This, in my opinion, is very-much an
    example of the generational differences (and expectations) in how we interact.

  • Timmy Boy

    All this sounds like a colossal rationalization for human’s addiction to these devices and a rationalization for a lack of personal responsibility and self control. I love my devices but have the courtesy to be in the moment with my fellow humans face to face. These devices are working to destroy the human attention span and sense of focus.

  • http://www.margie2408.edublogs.org Pinehill2

    I liken the ‘technology at the table’ routine to driving your fast car 85 miles an hour in a residential area, I know that you CAN but SHOULD you?
    PLease, let’s not give up on personal interaction!

  • Annakupchik

    This does not have to do with texting but it does deal with Facebook, which is yet another all-consuming, and addictive form of avoiding face-to-face contact. I’m a 25 year old who has just kicked the Facebook habit. My friends gave me some grief about it but I have felt such a tremendous relief and freedom. It’s almost as if the pressure to present yourself in a certain way is now done. The surprising part is that I have absolutely no regrets. I’ve realized that while Facebook can be fun and sometimes useful, I don’t need it whatsoever. The people who I am close to I can call, or email, and they can do the same for me. So much of current relationship building has used Facebook as a crutch, and has boiled down the process of actual connections to mere blurbs of information.

    • Fbryson

      You speak in volumes. This is a heavy response!  Well spoken!

    • Anonymous

      GOOD for you!!! I find that not being on Facebook can be a little isolating b/c all my friends are chatting away there. Hello? E-mail still works! ICQ still works! I know, I know – that’s all so 1997. GRIN! 

      HOWEVER I think several are starting to question how much time they spend there. YAY!

      I question how much information they put out there for everyone and anyone to see. I was on Facebook for about 5 minutes. I put in my basic info – only my e-mail address was real – and it started trying to connect me to people that I had not seen in years. Probably people who looked for me at some point. It seemed like such a privacy liability I quickly closed my account and then deleted it. No thanks.

      I’ve had the same phone number for years and it is easy to find that number via Google. Call me with those fancy $100 per month cellphones people! GRIN! I don’t want to publicly chat with friends near and far. I don’t want to publicly share my pictures either. I have a few pictures of my hobby projects (old cars) out there on Flickr but you’ll never find them b/c there is not any identifying information on them making them impossible to search for and if you find them you won’t know that they are mine. 

      The amount of time that a few of my friends spent on places like “Farmville” was staggering. Since a person only has so many waking hours in the day something had to give and it did – chores and connections with real people suffered. I saw the negative turn their lives took for a while. No thanks!

  • Freda

    I am disabled and walk with a cane, I am tired of people walking and reading or texting and bumping into me, if I weren’t hanging on to my husbands arm I would have fallen many times. I text, but not while walking, it is impossible to do both and watch for others, I am getting tired of trying to protect myself while being mobile.
    Freda

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    Referencing Andrew Sullivan leaves me cold. He may be right about rudeness, but in his own case, I confess I have no reason to listen to a conservative Catholic homosexual hypocrite like him.

  • Verity

    Reams of studies showed negative changes in relationship and communication related to TV, video, and games. For instance comments are short, they relate primarily to the show, attempts to be active unrelated to the TV are discouraged. But we never paid attention to those and we don’t seem open to concerns about hand held devices.

    My concerns are for instance my 24-year old trainer who said when their power went out he and his fiance were “bored” for 2 hours, with nothing to say to each other. Though she texts him dozens of times a day, face-to-face they have nothing to say? We’re making our relationships with machines. Me-to-machine and then you and I might comment on our individual machine-relations. Weird.

  • Verity

    P.S. Remember when the phone had its own room? People used to have a “tv room” also, with a door so other activities could go on while someone enjoyed TV or used the phone. We controlled machine time, not the other way around.

    If someone glances at the phone, I say go ahead. They will just be thinking about the message, anyway. :)

  • Francisco

    This conversation was outdated even as it was taking place. As young people grow up, they will no longer see it as an issue of good or bad manners. Technology will out.

  • Franlight

    For Father Greg:

    How did you get started with Homeboys Industries?

    Do you think it would work in non-urban areas with adolescents who are not challenged by gangs?

  • Little Yak

    Somehow,texting is gradually reducing the number of time we spend on books and with friends in person. Right ?

  • Pingback: Learning Spaces & the 1 to 1 Classroom | EduCommunicate

  • Pingback: William Powers, Author of Hamlet's BlackBerry | William Powers Discusses Hamlet's BlackBerry on NPR's "On Point"

  • Robert Marengo

    You want to hear something anomalous?  I have never owned a television set, never sent a text message, never received a text message, never taken a photo with my cell phone, have not been in a movie theater in almost 30 years.  I can’t look at Facebook for more than 30 seconds without getting irritated, so I have never “friended” or “unfriended” anyone.  My CD stereo has a remote that I have never used - I actually get up & walk to operate the controls.  I use my cell phone to make and receive calls, period.  In fact, if my business did not require me to keep in touch with my employees, I would not own a cell phone.  I do use e-mail and I am a voracious reader - hard copy & digital on the computer screen.  I don’t feel in the least disconnected from the world and people around me.  Just thought you might like to hear from a weirdo!

    • Mike

      That is amazing, and congratulations for not getting caught up in the hype. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rich-Madison/100002956347397 Rich Madison

      Me too – nice to know there are others

ONPOINT
TODAY
Apr 17, 2014
Students cheer and wave as President Barack Obama, not pictured, exits the podium after speaking at the University at Buffalo, in Buffalo, N.Y., Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, beginning his two day bus tour speaking about college financial aid.  (AP)

The inside dope on college financial aid. The way it really works, who gets what, and how.

Apr 17, 2014
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men burn leavened items in final preparation for the Passover holiday in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish town of Bnei Brak, near Tel Aviv, Israel, Monday, April 14, 2014. Jews are forbidden to eat leavened foodstuffs during the Passover holiday that celebrates the biblical story of the Israelites' escape from slavery and exodus from Egypt. (AP)

In the week of Passover and anti-Semitic gunfire, we look at the history of the Jews with acclaimed historian Simon Schama. Plus, Pope Francis and the Catholic Church today.

RECENT
SHOWS
Apr 16, 2014
Harvard Business School is one of the top-ranked MBA programs in the country. Our guest today suggests those kinds of degrees aren't necessary for business success. (HBS / Facebook)

Humorist and longtime Fortune columnist Stanley Bing says, “forget the MBA.” He’s got the low-down on what you really need to master in business. Plus: the sky-high state of executive salaries.

 
Apr 16, 2014
A woman walks past a CVS store window in Foxborough, Mass., Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012. The nation’s major drugstore chains are opening more in-store clinics in response to the massive U.S. health care overhaul, which is expected to add about 25 million newly insured people who will need medical care and prescriptions, as well as offering more services as a way to boost revenue in the face of competition from stores like Safeway and Wal-Mart. (AP)

Retailers from Walgreens to Wal-Mart to CVS are looking to turn into health care outlets. It’s convenient. Is it good medicine? Plus: using tech to disrupt the healthcare market.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
How Boston Is Getting Ready For the 2014 Boston Marathon
Tuesday, Apr 15, 2014

Boston Globe metro reporter Maria Cramer explains how the 2014 Boston Marathon will be different than races in the past.

More »
Comment
 
WBUR’s David Boeri: ‘There’s Still Much We Don’t Know’
Tuesday, Apr 15, 2014

WBUR’s senior reporter David Boeri details the ongoing investigation into the alleged Boston Marathon Bombing perpetrators.

More »
Comment
 
Remembering The Boston Marathon Bombing, One Year Later
Tuesday, Apr 15, 2014

One year after the Boston Marathon Bombing, we look back at our own coverage of the attacks and the community’s response from April 2013.

More »
Comment