When I was a teenager (early 2000’s), text messaging didn’t exist. Blackberries were around and could send emails, but they were expensive, and no one my age had one. Actually, most of my friends didn’t have cell phones until they were driving, and some not until college. And even then, minutes were expensive, so my group didn’t really use our phones very often. We used instant messenger.
I can remember nights of having 9 different conversation windows open on my computer screen (until the miracle of tabs) and learning to type fast solely so I could chat faster. While IM was great at allowing multiple conversations, it did have it’s limitations. You couldn’t really use it without sitting in front of a computer (connected to the internet), and IM required that the other person was in front of a computer, also connected. This tiny requirement usually kept IM sessions to a few hours in the evening, and not always every night.
Texts are very similar to IM’s. Short messages are sent back and forth between two people (occasionally sent in mass). Texting, however, has essentially removed the limitation of being in front of a computer and connected to the internet. And it has changed everything for teens. Now, teens can “IM” each other at any time, day or night. You just need to have a cell phone, which many are getting at younger and younger ages (I know a 12 year-old who sports an iPhone). Those of us older than 19 may text quite a bit, but not nearly as much as the teens. I send/receive around 1,200 texts a month. In the world of the teens, though, that is bush league. The teens I know (friends of my younger brother) send between 5k and 10k texts a month. Rumor is one girl sends almost 20k per month. Texting that much is almost inconceivable in my mind, but carrying on conversations with friends is not.
I’m sure if my IM messages were tallied up in a similar fashion, I would have sent similar numbers. But again, my IM’s were limited to time in front of the computer. Because these massive amount of texts are being sent at any and all times, they are creating some dangerous situations. Car and Driver recently did a study and found texting while driving to be (much) more dangerous than drinking and driving.
As a result of the growing trend of accidents caused by texting, many states (Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia) are enacting legislation to make texting and emailing from mobile devices for teens (and in some cases everyone) illegal while driving. As society is adapting to new technologies, it is great to see that the lawmakers are doing their part to keep up. These types of laws are picking up steam across the country and will likely be the norm in a few more years.
Adults may not be texting up a storm as they drive, but sending emails and twittering are likely just as dangerous. These communication tools have brought communication everywhere, even places where we should be focused on other things. Let’s keep having the conversations, but make sure it is done safely.