Opinion | Texting is a language barrier

By Tommy Block, Senior Columnist

I think we’d all be better off without emojis.

I know, I can’t control what you send from your mobile devices, and you should be glad I can’t. If it were up to me, I’d throw the whole dictionary of texting abbreviations out the window.

That’s right: I have a beef with texting. The discourse is cramped, the ideas are bungled and the etiquette is hard to maneuver. What other form of communication can stir up a hurricane of confusion with just a couple of letters? Why does the time elapsed between messages matter more than the messages themselves? Why do I have to overthink everything I text, regardless of how mundane it is?

When it started in 1992, texting probably seemed like a swell way to quickly get a point across. Now, in the most ironic fashion, texting is something different altogether: a language barrier.

I don’t believe our definition of communication has gotten any narrower, and deep down, we know we can get the most out of old-fashioned talking. This is because we instinctively know communication is composed of a lot more than just words: tone, verbal emphasis, hand gestures and other factors all change the verbal delivery of our thoughts.

It also, however, includes emotions we might be hesitant to reveal to others, such as nervousness, discomfort or apathy. Of course, these feelings become problematic only when we can’t act fast enough to hide them, as is usually true of face-to-face conversations. I don’t know if this is why texting is as popular as it is, but it often feels less like a form of communication and more of a performance. You only really show the stuff you want to show, at the pace you want to show it at.

Which is what, exactly? We just went through a whole list of dimensions involved in communication, and texting costs us all of them, leaving us with a cryptic and pseudo-meaningful bank of phrases to choose from. Texting was never designed to carry lengthy conversations, and yet, it often bears the load it was never equipped to handle.

I am calling for us to rebuild texting culture from scratch. Instead of fretting over the subtle difference between “okay” and “K,” let’s just worry about five words: who, what, when, where and why.

Pure, logistical information is the only thing that the limited scope of texting can capture. No subtext, no hidden meanings, just straight up facts. Imagine how much simpler texting would be if it had the same function as a planner and nothing else! “I’m in class right now, I’ll be there at 3 p.m.” “We just had some Chipotle. Now, we’re going to the store for paper towels.”

As long as your question can be answered with “yes” or “no,” texting has you covered. If you want to chat about the meaning of life (or whether “The Office” is better than “Friends”), do so over some lunch.

Tommy is a senior in Engineering. 

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