Digital Literacy Narrative Final + Process Memo

Process Memo (I could not find requirements for this bit online, so I hope this suffices)

When writing this paper, I tried to follow the recommended strategy (madman, architect, carpenter, judge).  It was difficult, because I often mesh the first three together when I write.  I know that this is not the easiest way, but it is very difficult for my brain to do it any other way.  I solve writing like I approach a puzzle.  First get the edges so you have an outline, and then put each piece in one at a time, and it should fit perfectly with the pieces, or sentences, around it.  Of course, this is the exact opposite of the “madman” stage, when disjointed, often aimless writing is encouraged to foster creativity and to pour ideas onto the paper before revising them into something coherent.  So this time, I tried to be creative and nonrestrictive as I wrote, but I often found myself erasing what to write something that seemed better at the time.  This is a habit that I am actively trying to break.  Overall, I am relatively happy with how it came out and I think that I made a coherent piece.  My main concern is that it is not personal enough, as I spend a lot of time making sweeping generalizations with only two or three anecdotes to back them up.

The Texting Dilemma

The telephone really is an amazing invention when you think about it.  You can have a conversation with someone even if they are literally on the other side of the planet.  This feat of engineering is now overshadowed by the advent of video chat, the Star Trek-reminiscent communication that incorporates video into the interaction.  This new medium is even more like speaking in person, and is probably the closest technology will get us to face-to-face for a very long time.  However, the basic telephone remains the most commonly used long-distance communication, as it has been for about the last 100 years.

Despite the telephone’s long history and reliability, many people of the younger generation prefer to communicate via text.  This is puzzling, because in a sense this is just like the old fashioned way of sending letters, just in a different guise and a million times faster.  It seems less convenient than calling someone, since it can take much longer to write something than to say it.

When you text, you miss out on the benefits of in-person conversation.  The biggest downside is that you don’t see your listener’s immediate reaction; you only read what they decide to tell you.  It is difficult to parry remarks back and forth through text.  You can never hear a person smile when you are texting, but sometimes you can over the phone.  In some cases, you can’t even be sure who you are talking to.  What bothers me most is that I too, in spite of my opinions on the matter, often find myself having entire conversations via text that could have been much more wholesome over the phone.  So why is this so appealing?

Texting has many benefits.  Short tidbits of information, like where to meet after school, a grocery list, an address for a party, or the most recent math assignment are all most easily sent via text.  No introduction necessary, no brief exchange of greeting and “how are you?” that is almost mandatory in person to person conversation.  I can text a friend when I will be out of class so I don’t interrupt lecture.  While on a road trip, I once chatted with a friend through text so I didn’t disturb the other people with me.  Texting is a quick and easy way to send photos of moments to family or friends.  The many great uses for this medium that has helped solidify its role in society today.

However, I often see people my age having long text conversations with other people when they could easily call instead.  Considering all the disadvantages of texting, why do people still do it?

I believe that the main appeal of this kind of texting is its uncertainty and anonymity.  This is also the unfortunate consequence of texting.  When I was home for Thanksgiving, I arranged a get-together with my group from high school to have dinner and see a movie, but I did it without making a single call.  I opted to have five different simultaneous conversations via text instead of calling everyone individually.  Looking back on it, I wish I had done the latter, partly because it would have shown my friends I was willing to go the extra mile to talk to them directly, and partly because that would have left some more time to catch up.  However I hadn’t spoken with my friends for several months, and so calling felt much more daunting.  The keys offered me some protection against my friends’ responses.  It is easier to turn down an invitation via text than in person or over the phone because you don’t have to lay it down so tactfully.  This is why it is so hurtful to end a relationship with a text.  Texts are supposed to be short—they are easiest to read and to type that way—so most of the time one skips elaborate excuses and apologies and gets right to the point.  When this happens, the recipient usually can assume that the sender is telling the truth and that they are indeed sorry, even without the nonverbal messages that would be so easy to spot in person.  The key word here is “assume”. You can never really tell what someone means when they send a text; you have to guess.  This is of course bad for the recipient, but advantageous for the sender.

Texting reduces accountability for what you say because of this guessing.  It is easier to apologize for something written in text than said out loud because one can simply say “oh, I didn’t mean it like that.”  Texting is also less transparent than live interaction.  It is easy for someone to pretend to be someone they are not via text.  I have heard many stories of adults posing as teenagers online and in text in order to fool and abduct teenagers.  Their strategy of communicating in text is effective because there are no visual cues in this medium.  All it takes to be a 15 year old boy is to write messages like one, and the recipient will mentally (and incorrectly) fill in the blanks, not knowing that the person is not at all who they say there are.  People use this effect all the time for small things.  In high school, I once told someone that I would help her study for physics, but we did not establish a set time to meet.  She texted me a time later that day, but by then I had realized I was too busy.  Instead of cancelling the meeting, I just pretended not to receive the text, and then played dumb when she confronted me.  I regret doing this—I should have just told her I didn’t have the time—but the point is that it is very easy to lie in text.  For this reason, texting does not foster trust in a relationship like person-to-person interaction does.

Texting has its drawbacks, but it still remains a very useful mode of communication in many situations.  However, in my life, I try to keep texting in its place and call people directly when I want to talk to them.  When I am about to text, I ask myself, “don’t I actually wish to speak to this person?”

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