Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Is Texting Unethical?

My mom sent me an interesting piece from the New York Times about texting; I found it especially relevant after telling a friend yesterday that I'd crack his Blackberry if he didn't stop spacing out. Note that I like texting for quick questions or comments, but despise it for conversation.
You’re having dinner with your teenage kids, and they text throughout: you hate it; they’re fine with it. At the office, managers are uncertain about texting during business meetings: many younger workers accept it; some older workers resist. Those who defend texting regard such encounters as the clash of two legitimate cultures, a conflict of manners not morals. If a community — teenagers, young workers — consents to conduct that does no harm, does that make it O.K., ethically speaking? [...]

So it is with incessant texting, a noxious practice that does not merely alter our in-person interactions but damages them. Even a routine conversation demands continuity and the focus of attention: it cannot, without detriment, be disrupted every few moments while someone deals with a text message. More intimate encounters suffer greater harm. In romantic comedy, when someone breaks a tender embrace to take a phone call, that’s a sure sign of love gone bad. After any interruption, it takes a while to regain concentration, one reason few of us want our surgeon to text while she’s performing a delicate neurological procedure upon us. Here’s a sentence you do not want to hear in the operating room or the bedroom: “Now, where was I?”

Various experiments have shown the deleterious effects of interruption, including this study that, unsurprisingly, demonstrates that an interrupted task takes longer to complete and seems more difficult, and that the person doing it feels increased annoyance and anxiety.


  1. Ezzie, Ezzie, are you there? Now you know what it's like! It's annoying to be talking to someone who's not paying attention!

  2. LOL. But I'm not texting. I'm just multi-tasking. :D

  3. Same idea. You aren't listening to the other person and they have to repeat themselves all the time.

  4. "an uninterrupted task takes longer to complete"

    When I go grocery shopping at night, there are often several husbands shopping at the same time. Each one of them is speaking on the phone. Almost none of the women shopping is on the phone. My theory is that the men, who are mostly "doing the shopping for their wives," view this as wasted time, and want to at least make the time useful by multitasking. As a seasoned shopper, though, I see that the shopping trip is taking twice as long as it should.

    (Pick up tomato)
    (Stop and say something on phone)
    (Put tomato in bag)
    (Stop and listen to response)
    (Pick up another tomato)
    (Stop and ...)