Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive “Intexticated”

Texting has become a basic part of modern communication. I even use it to communicate with my clients. But given the apparent need some people have to stay relentlessly in touch, mental health experts are asking if texting can become an addiction.

In response to research suggesting an “inherent” risk for abuse of texting, online mental health expert John M. Grohol, Psy.D. says, “‘Inherent’ is such a generalization, it could be made about anything. The potential for abuse of the phone is inherent. The potential for abuse of friendships is inherent. The potential for abuse of any hobby you enjoy is inherent. Look at how much athletes work out, for instance. Are they addicted to working out, or is it something that is rewarding for them…?”

For something to be an addiction, it must interfere with your basic functioning. If the excessive behavior prevents you from doing things that contribute to your well-being, then you have a problem. If you lose your job because of it, you’re addicted. If it ruins your relationships, you’re addicted. If you crash your car while doing it, well ….

Research has shown that great numbers of teenagers cannot stand to be away from their phones and their text messages. Some adults are the same way; even risking their lives while simultaneously texting and driving. In fact, many states (including Delaware) have enacted legislation to make “driving while intexticated” a traffic violation. But look around as you drive: The laws are ignored wholesale.

Furthermore, in this age of misspelling and bad grammar, could it be that some people are so used to text messaging that they’ve forgotten the art of putting together a sentence? In spite of all that, I question whether texting is all that bad. I know young people who don’t say or write much, while I know others who are quite articulate. Probably all of them text. We tend to blame technology for everything, but I blame intellectual maladies more on a lack of thinking and self-reflection.

One major concern about texting is the potential for speaking impulsively. Texting is convenient, and can be useful in lieu of a better option. But just like with email, you have to be careful. It’s so easy to say (write) something in anger or haste that might feel good, but that you’ll regret later. For some, the immediate gratification of texting becomes an excuse for blurting out whatever comes into their mind, while avoiding the consequences of face-to-face communication.

But speaking on impulse is a human error, not a technological one. I don’t think people become addicted to objects so much as to bad habits that suit a momentary purpose. Speaking on impulse is one of the biggest mistakes people make; speaking in hostile tones and thereby eliminating any validity to what they’re saying. In doing so, they show little respect for themselves or the recipient. This is fine if you don’t care to maintain ties with that person; you can ask forgiveness, but you’ll never know if it’s sincere.

Silence IS indeed golden. We don’t HAVE to be in constant touch. It might be OK to have a moment when we choose to say nothing. Even in the big-mouthed age of TV and radio pundits, unexpressed thoughts still have their place. If there is an addictive aspect to texting, it’s the false belief that being out of touch (horror of horrors!) is somehow a catastrophe.

In this high-strung age of quick communication, a compulsive desire to not be alone can lead to impulsive behavior. So think before you text and email. Write with your head, not with your momentary feelings. If words matter, we have to stand by them. We can (maybe) take them back, but we can never truly unsay them. And they’ll always leave their mark.