Let Your Fingers Do the Talking

Texting replaces voice interactions in many families

By Tianna De Jesus | Everglades High School

Lisette Lazarus, Saint Thomas Aquinas High School junior, was finishing her homework in her room when her phone buzzed from the other side of her desk.

Across the screen flashed a text message saying, “Come to the kitchen, dinner is ready.”

The text was from her father.

Due to social media and widespread cell phone usage, face-to-face contact has been replaced by instant messaging services.

Lazarus said getting texts from her father in the house is normal. First, her mom tries to call her verbally. If there’s no response, her dad will text her with the message her mother was initially trying to relay.

“As crazy as it sounds, I know I will have more of a chance getting a response out of my daughter by texting her rather than talking face-to-face,” said Gary Lazarus. “She will not only be more likely to respond, but pending on the situation, I know I will be able to get more information out of her.”

However, not all families are as open to frequent phone usage as the Lazarus family. Some even have strict rules prohibiting any sort of phone usage during all family and school-related activities.

Randall Collins, Pembroke Pines Charter High School junior, is not allowed to text in front of his mother, during dinner, at school or past a certain time at night.

“My mom says that I get distracted too easily and that I am obsessed with texting, which is why I’m rarely allowed to do it,” Collins said.

Inside the comfort of one’s home is just one of the many places that cell phone usage is being used and abused.

Joel J. Garcia, bar manager at Ortanique on the Mile in Coral Gables, said patrons using cell phones at a bar or restaurant is more prevalent than ever before.

In some cases, rather than engaging in verbal conversations with bartenders, Garcia said, patrons come in, cellular devices in hand, with a picture of labels for the particular drink that they want to order.

“Sometimes when customers use their cell phones to tell me what they want to order it helps the flow at the bar move faster when it’s crowded,” he said.

A recent study in the Nielsen 2011 Media Industry Fact Sheet states that there are more than 228 million mobile phone users in the United States over the age of 13. From this number, 83.2 million users access the web via their cellular devices.

In addition, 31 percent of the 228 million mobile phone users are smart phone users, meaning they have the capability to download applications including but not limited to instant messaging and web chat services.

According to Christopher Knippers, author and psychologist at Mission Hospital in Laguna Beach, California, people are using cell phones to escape the realities of everyday life, block out their emotions and deal with anxiety.

“Social media and cell phones are becoming like a drug,” Knippers said.

“I like having my phone on the table during dinner,” Lisette Lazarus said. “It definitely prohibits communication between me and my parents at dinner, but sometimes it’s a good way to make sure that I don’t get sucked into a conversation that I don’t want to have with my parents.”

Isaac Sochaczewski, a family conflict psychologist in Aventura, said texting is more appealing to people because only then are they in complete control of any given situation.

“People are able to avoid uncomfortable situations through texting by ignoring the messages,” he said, “but that is not possible with face-to-face conversations.”

Restaurants and bars are not the only cell phone hot spots. Movie theaters are slowly but surely catching up. Even with the creative “No talking/texting” advisories movie theaters air during previews, you can still see sporadic flashes of fluorescent screens in the dark theaters as people check the time and answer text messages and phone calls.

“The amount of texting really depends on the age group of the people that come in,” said Herman Pulido, manager at Cinemark Paradise 24 in Davie. “When people are with their families, texting is at a minimum but when you see a group of teens with their friends, I definitely see a lot more cell phones in use.”

According to Knippers, teens are not the only ones with a problem.

“While teens do have more time on their hands, not all of them misuse technology the way everyone thinks they do,” he said. “The percentages of teens and adults who misuse technology are actually quite similar.”

Gary Lazarus agrees.

“Sometimes, I think I am just as bad as a teenager with how much I use my phone, but I need to stay connected and be able to communicate with clients,” he said.

Experts say that missing out on face-to-face communication inhibits learning proper social skills.

“By continuously choosing to text, people are losing a part of who they are,” Sochaczewski said. “They are losing the emotions that come with having a face-to-face conversation.”

In an article titled “Cell Phones are the New Cigarettes,” Jon Markman, editor of the newsletter Strategic Advantage, wrote:

“When you get in your car, you reach for it. When you’re at work, you take a break to have a moment alone with it. When you get into an elevator, you fondle it.”

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