Plane Conversation

A man in my row on a flight from Dallas to Chicago got to laughing about his severely out-of-date (not too smart) phone, which led him to talk about a conversation his wife and daughter had.

Mother: Please ask your boyfriend — never got the name — to tell us what time he is coming for dinner.

Daughter: I will text him.

A few minutes later…

Mother: What did he say?

Daughter: I’m not sure what time he is coming. I’ll text him again.

A few more minutes:

Mother: What did he say?

Daughter: I’m not really sure what time he thinks he’s coming.

Mother, now impatient: Why don’t you just call him?

Daughter: Mo-o-o-o-m, No. That would be SO awkward!

Evidently, the father said to me, talking on the phone now is awkward. Then the father said about all he does on his phone is talk. In fact, he said, at work I tell friends if they want to get to me quickly, call me. I check my e-mail, he said, only 3x per day. When I get to work, maybe at lunch, and then just before I leave. Daughter not like father.

A father with two teenage daughters told me his daughters have 2000+ text messages a month but rarely talk more than 20 minutes per month on the phone. Really?! Yougottabekiddinme!

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • George

    No kidding, Scott. My daughter showed me one morning that she actually got over two hundred text MSGs from her friends on the same subject overnight. And that’s not rare, when I asked how often would she get message trains like that. I’ve never asked her how many text msgs she gets very month but definitely in the thousands. Nowadays, young people don’t talk over the phone they text each other. Just an example how weird this has become. The group of young people were having dinner in the same table. They were talking to each other but at the same time almost everyone was also texting. At first I thought they were texting some friends elsewhere but then I found out they were texting one while talking to another simoutaneously all from the same table!!

  • Bob S.

    Funny story and not a stretch to say it represents a new reality for a majority of young people. Not to mention many of their parents are leading the way in this revolution, as we desperately grasp for relevancy in youth obsessed culture. I don’t want to be the guy who looks at the latest tech and says, “Back in my day, we wouldn’t have done it that way, so it must be bad stuff!” On the other hand, there are clear signs that we are not making improvements for the better in regards to relationships. Anecdotal evidence: look around you the next time you’re out at a restaurant and see how many people are engaged in conversation with one another versus looking at a screen. We’ve taken something good and useful and turned it into our master, our idol.

  • Sue

    I probably don’t talk 20 minutes o. My phone in s month, and mostly communicate via text or email or FB, and my kids are 30! I don’t believe this is having a negative impact on relationships. More communicating is better. I’m in constant touch with people, whether family or work, and we aren’t hamstrung by time + place. We still talk facevyo face, too – and haven’ forgotten how.

  • Conor

    Absolutely true. I probably do 15% of my business (fitness industry) via texting, and this is with ages 35-50. I expect that number to skyrocket over the next decade.

  • Phil Miller

    This doesn’t really surprise me. Other my wife and my parents, I hardly use my phone to actually talk to anyone. We don’t have a landline at our house, so I do use my phone if I need to call a repairman or something like that. But those sorts of calls are relatively rare. I’m sure I don’t text at a level anywhere near the average teenage girl, but I’ve definitely been using it more and more over the last few years.

    There are a few things that give texting an advantage over calling. First, there’s a written record of the conversation. This is nice if someone is sending you an address or confirming an appointment. Also, the ability to text multiple people at once is a godsend when you’re in a band or other group setting where getting info out quickly is desired. It certainly beats phone chains.

  • Phil Miller

    I should also add that the ability to have a conversation without actually having to speak can be very advantageous, too. How else can you complain to wife about the pastor’s sucky sermon during the service? :-)

  • John I.

    Marshall McLuhan made the trenchant observation that “the medium is the message” several decades ago, and time and again he has been proved right. This phrase means that the form of a medium embeds itself in the message. Consequently, people subvert and pervert their message by using a medium inappropriate to the message. This is very much true with texting–though I agree that it does have its place and its uses that are appropriate.

    We are made for face-to-face contact and communication with other humans, and so such communication must be our main medium for significant interpersonal relationship. Baby studies, for example, show that babies inherently attune themselves (and actually “train” their mothers) to their mothers. If in separate rooms, but able to see each other by video camera and monitor, the attunement will occur. However, if that exact same tape is played back later to the baby, the baby will fuss and cry because he/she cannot get in tune / synchronized responses / mutual dance with the mother.

    Texting so removes what makes us human and interactive and responsive with each other (abbreviated language, lack of cues, etc.), that it is not an effective communicator for the most part. To then “engage” for the most part by texting is to engage in misshapen communication, and to convince oneself that such is a valuable form of communication is to mislead oneself.

    J.

  • P.

    I guess I can talk big because I don’t have a child. If I did, I’d allow some texting because keeping up with technology is good, but I’d have to limit it and encourage face to face interaction because that skill will pay off quite a bit in the long run. Said child might also have to pay the texting bill!

    Yep, I’m a non-texter, or do it very little. I actually can’t stand it except for short, urgent messages.

  • RJS

    We went to the unlimited texting family plan when our oldest went to college. The only other choice was no cell phone or a new number that couldn’t be given to anyone. The incoming texts were breaking the bank even if none were sent. It is the communication method.

    But we use texting a lot now for in family conversations as well.

  • Marshall

    Have you never been sitting in somebody’s office when their phone rings and you sit there while they answer it?? An actual phone call is rather preemptive, basically you have to answer it or blow it off … that’s why it’s awkward, the caller can’t know what they might be interrupting. A text message is more deferential, it can be accepted at a time of your own choosing. And sometimes a message is just a message, doesn’t demand a response at all.

    Of course a text isn’t a substitute for a face-to-face … I don’t think a phone call is, either.


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