12 Disadvantages of Texting

Updated on May 4, 2019
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Paul's been passionate about technology for over 30 years and taught digital media studies. Born in the UK, he now lives in Florida.

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Texting, or SMS (short messaging service) has become an extremely popular form of communication since the very first text message was sent by British engineer, Neil Papworth on December 3rd, 1992.

In recent years, texting has come to include MMS (multimedia messages) too, which enables users to send images, audio, and video, as well as text, numbers, and other symbols.

There are a great many benefits associated with test messaging, but this article lists 12 downsides.

12 Disadvantages of Text Messaging

  1. Misunderstandings
  2. Impersonal
  3. Expectation to Read and Respond
  4. General Distraction
  5. Texting and Driving
  6. Socially Disruptive
  7. Group Texts
  8. Obsessive/Addictive
  9. Limitations
  10. Sleep Problems
  11. Erodes Language Skills
  12. Cost

I give more detail on each disadvantage below.

1. Misunderstandings

The sheer brevity of texts, coupled with a lack of verbal tone, facial expressions, eye-contact, and body language make it very easy for misunderstandings to occur. People responding to texts in a brief fashion or with one word answers can also easily come across as curt or rude without intending to be.

2. Impersonal

Compared to face to face, or phone conversations, texting is impersonal. The incorporation of MMS technology to enable more visual media to be used with text messages has provided more scope for expression, but it's never going to replace face to face, or phone conversations for personal contact.

3. Expectation to Read and Respond

There is a tendency to treat each text received as if it is likely to be urgent, even though many are trivial or not time sensitive. Receiving messages can also put you under pressure because senders often expect an immediate response. Failing to reply within five or ten minutes can be all it takes to cause some people anger or frustration. The fact is that, unlike email, you are expected read and respond to text messages straightaway.

4. General Distractiion

People easily become engrossed in text messages at the expense of the world around them, whether it's teenagers who are supposed to be studying, or workers who are supposed to working, or people on their phone when crossing the street. Texts can also be annoying to receive, if you are focused on an important task and your phone keeps buzzing and interrupting.

5. Texting and Driving

Texting and driving has been shown to be serious danger to road users, only driving under the influence is a comparable threat to safety. Laws against texting while driving have been introduced in many places to discourage or stop the practice, but people still do it.

6. Socially Disruptive

It's difficult to imagine how many family get-togethers, meet-ups between friends, and romantic evenings have been undermined by text messaging. Other practices, such as "sexting", where sexually explicit messages are exchanged, have alarmed some, especially where young teenagers are concerned.

7. Group Texts

Group texts seem like a good idea, but in practice they can often be annoying. One moment all is quiet, the next, your phone is virtually exploding with your friends discussing what time to arrive at a restaurant, or where to meet on Friday evening. If you are driving or at work, the disruption can be particularly troublesome.

8. Obsessive/Addictive

The immediacy of texting can make it obsessive, even addictive and can contribute to an "always on" culture that can be harmful. This can affect work, study, sleep, and a person's health. According to Dr Christine Grant, an occupational psychologist at Coventry University's Center for Research in Psychology, Behaviour and Achievement, speaking about her work to the BBC: "The negative impacts of this 'always on' culture are that your mind is never resting, you're not giving your body time to recover, so you're always stressed. And the more tired and stressed we get, the more mistakes we make. Physical and mental health can suffer."

9. Limitations

Texting is designed for short, straightforward messaging and is poor at conveying complex or subtle information. If you want to convey something complicated, you are almost always better off typing an email, or using another form of communication media. Emotionally sensitive information is often not suitable for messaging too, as it's difficult to hit the right tone and gauge the reaction of the receiver - they may feel upset, insulted, angry, confused, without you knowing.

10. Sleep Problems

Multiple studies have shown that texting has contributed to a lack of sleep, particularly for teenagers. There is even a condition, known as "sleep texting", where text messages are sent while the sender is still asleep. Some sleep specialists, such as Dr David Cunnington, of Melbourne Sleep Disorder Centre in Australia, claim that the condition is becoming increasingly common.

11. Erodes Language Skills

Low levels of vocabulary, poor spelling and grammar, and as well as incomplete sentences have all been raised as reasons why text messaging is having a detrimental effect on language.

12. Cost

Whether something is expensive or inexpensive is a matter of opinion, but it's fair to say that some mobile phone plans don't offer great value for money. Unlimited texting sounds good, but it's not necessarily worth it if you only send or receive a couple of texts per day. On the other hand, prepaid plans can be expensive if you use text messaging a lot, especially if you are charged for receiving texts as well as sending them.

5 Texting Facts

  1. The first text message ever sent was: "Merry Christmas".
  2. The inventor of texting failed to patent his invention, as he didn’t think it was “a patentable innovation”
  3. In Malaysia, it is legal to divorce your spouse by sending them a text
  4. The social media platform, Twitter was inspired by SMS.
  5. In recent years, the popularity of texting has been in decline, due to competition from other messaging technologies

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Paul Goodman

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