Sending an SMS has become so popular that some are addicted to it and it's causing behavioural problems, finds out K. Pradeep

I'm not a big fan of text messaging. Frankly, I'm not comfortable with all these gizmos.

Messaging is not just a way of arranging to meet, or letting someone know you'll be late, or sending a pithy, clever comment. The text message now takes care of, quickly and efficiently, what was once the exclusive premise of the phone. And, today, youngsters have turned messaging into an art.

Mobile phones are a sort of social necessity among teens. You see them hooked on to their gadgets, oblivious of the world around, thumbing away on the miniature keypad at lightning speed. You often feel that these mobile phones are the key to their life itself!

Entertainment

For most youngsters, mobile phones are a new form of entertainment, loaded with their favourite games, songs, videos and more. For many the gizmo offers a sense of security while on the go.

Texting is no longer an option. They swear that their ‘social life would end or be worsened' without this invaluable facility. “Trying to cash in on this trend, all of us, service providers, have come out with different SMS packs. All of them are now mainly utilised by youngsters, who now prefer messaging than regular phone calls. And we have realised that messaging, despite the number of free ones we offer, is what brings in revenue,” informs a senior official of a prominent cellular service provider.

Texting offers several advantages, including multitasking, speed, option to avoid talking and of course, fun necessarily not in that order. Some of the youngsters ‘confess' that they have gained a sort of expertise in this ‘art' that they can even text blindfolded.

Sort of addiction

“Everything started rather casually. Most of the service providers give a huge number of free SMS, which often goes unused. In the beginning it used to take a lot of time to text a message. Gradually this became a sort of addiction. Now, I can text a message even without looking at the letters, you just need to know how to use the dictionary on the phone” says Arun, a Plus One student.

Many agree that text messaging has served more bad than good, especially to the teenage population. There is a strong tendency to get distracted from studies. Schools do have a ban on mobile phones on the campus, but as one student disclosed, it is being used on the sly. In colleges it is usual to see boys and girls texting away, very often not paying adequate attention to the classes. “This leads to falling grades, and poor report cards. I believe that some children are up late messaging their friends. I know a lot of children who are hooked to this habit and tend to struggle in their studies,” informs Kala, a teacher in a college.

For these ‘avid texters' the whole world, it seems, is at their fingertips, or at least that is the impression one gets watching them type on, immersed in their activity, often unconcerned of everything else. “It is usual to see these youngsters on the road, in buses, trains, everywhere, so fully involved in texting. I have encountered them, rather inattentive, even in busy places. I bumped into a youngster, the other day, in the middle of the pavement when he suddenly stopped in his tracks to finish a message. It was annoying,” says Vinod, a businessman.

Many teenagers confess that texting has become an obsession, like a disease. They find it impossible to function without constantly sending messages to their social network of friends. One of them even admitted that her fingers cramp at times, on account of too much typing. But all this does not prevent them from staying connected.

Situation unmanageable

Psychologists maintain that the situation has gone over the top, considering that individuals seem to prefer discussing their issues over messages, instead of simply meeting face to face. “This in excess is not normal behaviour. This is a means to perversion, leaving the person in the long run to isolation, to go away from reality and perhaps end in the extreme state of psychosis. These people tend to break inter-personal relationships, spoil clarity of thought, behaviour and emotions. Long hours of this activity can have serious physiological effects too. It can result in repetitive strain injury to neck and shoulders and even the head,” says Dr. C. P. Somasundaram, Head of the Department of Clinical Psychiatry, AIMS.

And what about the use of the English language? One would think the use of abbreviations, short messages, and incomplete sentences could lead to sloppy language skills. Although text messages are brief, they are sent so many times that in aggregate, it could have an impact in linguistics. “Sometimes, this may turn up as Obsessive Compulsive Behaviour. Even in examinations students use these short words, sometimes even unable to write essays. And then they also make a lot of spelling mistakes,” adds Dr. Somasundaram.

Text messaging may not be all that bad. There are experts who believe that use of abbreviations is a novel way of communication that demonstrates dexterity and creativity. This method of communication expands our language capabilities and demonstrates ingenuity.

Bright side

Naturally, the habit has its bright side, especially when considering that persons can easily stay connected with their loved ones who are a long distance away. “They are in constant contact with each other. They develop a strong interest to know what's going on in people's lives and share information that they wouldn't otherwise. Some conversations, or at least topics of discussion, would never arise in direct dialogues. Sometimes it's because we're too scared or forget later on. There are other situations where sending a text message may be more appropriate then conversing on the phone. Thus, it adds a lot of convenience and doesn't distract others,” feels Priya, a homemaker.

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