Is It Time to Say C U L8r to Text Messaging?

Feb 06, 2014


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BEST PRACTICES SERIES

I'm sorry, but in my opinion, teenagers are ruining everything. Sure, they're young and hip and still learning how to live their lives, so it may seem unfair to make such a substantial statement, but when it comes to how their tastes and perspectives affect the adoption and abandonment of certain technologies, they're really beginning to cramp my style.

A few weeks back, I was lured into reading a nice little story on NPR about texting. When I first clicked on the headline, I thought that the article was going to chronicle the rise of the text and explain how it has changed and adapted over the past 20 years. Maybe it would even talk about how easy texting is, or how it's now the preferred form of communication when compared to email or actually calling someone. But I wasn't even close. The story was about how texting is on the decline.

Seriously?

According to Deloitte, a consulting agency, the number of text messages sent by British people decreased by 7 billion last year. This number had peeked in 2011, with 39.7 billion texts being exchanged, and this year, the number is predicted to clock in around 21 billion. That's a nearly 50% decrease in three years.

I know I shouldn't be shocked by any of those numbers. With the speed of technology these days, it's only a matter of time before something that was once so ubiquitous becomes loses steam in the digital world. But hearing this news about my favorite form of communication really hit hard, and I just couldn't stop asking myself one question: why did this have to happen to the text message in particular?

It turns out that instant messaging has basically hip-checked text messaging right out of the digital game. Now I'm not talking about the kind of instant messaging that requires logging in to AIM (like I used to do way back in my college days). This instant messaging requires an app downloaded on to your smart phone. Sounds like a lot more effort than just sending a text, right? Apparently not. Deloitte predicts there will be around 300 billion of these instant messages being sent in 2014. And who will be sending these instant messages? One word: teenagers.

According to reports, young people don't want to be stifled by text message bills and cellphone plan limitations, and prefer to use apps like SnapChat and WhatsApp to communicate because they are free. In fact, according to the NPR story I mentioned earlier, young technology adopters are thinking more in terms of handles and usernames than phone numbers.

I just can't keep up!

I know I shouldn't be throwing all the blame on the younger generation. They haven't really done anything wrong aside from seek out and implement technology that is more appropriate for their needs, but it doesn't mean I have to like it. I'm constantly frustrated with how quickly technology moves, and more so, I'm saddened by how inflexible I've become the older I get. There just always seems to be something new popping up, and every time I get used to one technology (I'm talking to you, Instagram), it goes out of style . . . fast.

All griping aside, I understand the appeal of using a free messaging service to keep in contact with friends and family, especially for teens who reportedly send 60 texts a day. However, despite all the evidence trying to prove otherwise, I can't see this catching on with older users, at least not soon. Every single one of my friends still relies heavily on text messaging. I find that it is my go-to choice for communication, right behind email. It has become such an integral part of my life I actually get annoyed when people call me. The text is the perfect balance of anonymity and intimacy.

Whether a technology survives in this world depends on a number of factors, from the cost to user benefits to ease of use. Some demographics are more apt to turn a blind eye when a service only meets some of those criteria. For example, an instant messaging service may not be easier for a younger texter to use, but because all his friends are using it -- or because it is cheaper than having a texting plan -- he'll keep going back.

This is why I have to imagine that the supposed demise of the text message is comparable to the so-called demise of Facebook. Yes, younger technology users will move on to more flashy, trendy media, but the older, more seasoned generation will stay right where they are, comfortably using their QWERTRY keyboards in peace.