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Kim Schulze

Whatsapp Crap

2013-05-16 15:01
I was typing a message to a friend about how my new nail polish top-coat was just, oh my gaaaad, really good because it dries your nails super quickly - when I realised something rather serious about texting culture.

No, not that we discuss mundane, pointless things over text messaging. That's obvious.

But that we discuss nearly EVERYTHING via text message.

When we're updating our friends and loved ones throughout the day, in real time, does it leave anything to be discussed around the dinner table? We can no longer simply ask, "how was your day, love?" because we already know. We know what happened in that stressful eight o'clock meeting, we know which old friend popped out of the woodworks in a coffee shop at 11 and we know what we all had for lunch.

We don't have to wait to tell each other things anymore. Something surprising, fun or interesting can happen and there's no need to bank it for later. We can immediately message interested parties and even take a photo to enhance the moment. IRL. Ermahgerd.

This addictive form of immediate communication has been great for so many reasons: No more bored waiting in queues or doctors' rooms; in a quick click, we're asking each other about dinner plans; should I buy these shoes – quickly they're on sale! But its effect on our personal lives is debatable.

On the one hand, it's taken away from that cookie-cutter, "ideal" evening ritual of finding out about each other's days. And there is definitely something to be cherished there. One of us cooks and the other keeps the wine glasses topped up while we hang out in the kitchen chatting about this great occurrence and that infuriating bastard.

If we have kids, it also teaches them how to communicate, I suppose; "look at how mommy and daddy tell each other everything and make each other feel better". Purging the details of our day is a good winding down process, and we have to wonder, is it as effective if we’ve been yapping about it with our fingers all day?

So if we're having all these discussions as they happen, we're not too likely to recant in the evening. Though admittedly, often we share basic details via text, only to chat in earnest later, in person. But even then, the redundancy leaves us with less to talk about. I have a friend who hates texting "conversationally". She's cool with quick, necessary information sharing, but hates that people want to "chat" via text. She prefers picking up the phone to catch up, which has its merits – telephone conversations are at least still personal talking time.

Not to mention our newfound tendency to use texting as a way to talk about things people never used to. Lunches? I can promise you, unless it was a particularly splendid lunch at a new, exotic place, people would not get home at night to discuss their Caesar salad with a Polaroid as proof. Snapshots of our computer screens, bruised knees, "do these mushrooms look good to you?", along with "what I'm wearing", are new discussion faux pas.

On the other hand, it could be helping us make way to discuss more poignant things, even more fun things. It could be helping us get the nitty details out of the way so we can discuss our opinions and feelings on matters more thoroughly. (Oh boys, aren't you happy about that?) Maybe texting immediately about a problem at eleven in the morning gives us more time to think about it, giving us the ability to have more solutions to propose at night, along with better insight into the issue.

Some would argue that it's totally improved our communication with one another, because of the immediacy. That opposed to it making us have less to talk about at home, it’s making us share more with each other. More stories to tell with more enthusiasm, because we can relay our exact emotions about an event as it happens. It’s a good argument for those who cherish the "genuine" conversation. 

Perhaps it's not taking away from our communication processes, but in fact refining them; developing a system where mundane issues and naggy details are dealt with via text, like the pile of memos on your desk, and funner topics like our next holiday or upcoming birthday can be focused on in personal discussions. From that, you could even argue that it's making our one-on-one interactions more positive. (Which truthfully, I doubt – if something’s upsetting us, we’re likely to still want our hugs and solutions in the evening.) But the idea that it's streamlining our personal time is interesting.

I don't think there's anyone out there who truly believes Whatsapp, iMessage and WeChat are fundamentally dangerous to our home lives. The most apt point on cellphone texting is perhaps the WAY in which we type to each other, through abbreviations and whatnot. But other than that, it’s hard to argue that texting is damaging our conversations.

It's either a good thing, giving us more to chat to each other about and therefore a platform that helps us know each other better, or a new form of tedium that just pushes us more and more towards a life offline.

On the back of this terribly philosophical angle, it could also be as simple as this: Talkative people who love chatting and have daily word quotas tend to instant message all day long, and will probably continue those evening discussions with just as much enthusiasm as any pre-text era chatterbox. Either way, it's not bugging me yet, but watch this space.

**buzz**

Ooh look, mom bought new shoes!
 
* You can catch Kim on 5FM every weekday from 12:00-15:00 with more hilarity and quirky content. Candid opinions and the occasional outburst also available on Twitter, @KimSchulze and Facebook, www.facebook.com/TheKimSchulze

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