Text Messaging and the Student Lifestyle

National Communication Association“It’s the American Lifestyle!”
An investigation of text messaging by college students

Lynne Kelly, James A. Keaten, Bonnie Becker, Jodi Cole, Lea Littleford, & Barrett Roth, sponsored by the Human Communication and Technology Division, NCA 2010

Text messaging is “enchanting and addictive,” but young adults may see it as a gift-giving ritual for sharing friendship and allegiance. This gift-giving ritual is not new to teens – in days past, note-passing was the pre-cursor to SMS. One of the presenters quipped, “Personally, I think passing notes was way more fun, but this generation likes text messaging.”

The researchers conducted focus groups among students who, incidentally, reported sending and receiving an average of 159 text messages per day. They called it “convenient, easy, and without the formality of conversation.” They also reported that text messaging allows them to avoid awkward interpersonal interactions, like being rejected for a date. And, even though text messaging remains extremely popular, students reported that far more miscommunication can occur via text-messaging than other, more synchronous forms of communication.

The final question asked of students: “Why do you feel the need text during class?”

  • to combat boredom: texting satifies the need to be active.
  • to stay current: “just because you’re in class doesn’t mean the rest of the world stops.”
  • to avoid that awkward anxiety of direct interpersonal conversation.

This research can help instructors and students alike learn how to better use (or not use) text messaging in class (and in life). What are your thoughts on texting in class?

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