Texting - Tickled or Troubled

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I bought my first computer over fifteen years ago while teaching Summer Bible School in Minnesota. It came with a confusing assortment of cables and software that left me somewhat overwhelmed. As the Brother who sold me the machine set himself to the task of hooking the various parts together; he explained that there was Bible software, word processing software, even encyclopedias that would run on this amazing machine. He confidently declared, “You might not understand it now, but this machine will change the way you live.” I didn’t understand. I had Bible study books, an electronic typewriter, and even an old set of encyclopedia. How was this machine going to change my life? “Do you want me to install e-mail on this thing?” he asked. I replied, “What does that do?” “It is sort of like sending a fax, but you never use paper, it is all electronic.” I naively gave consent and that machine began to change the way I live.

Electronic communication is not entirely a new science. The telegraph is the most rudimentary form of e-mail. The first text message was sent in 1844 as a series of “dots and dashes” transmitted by tapping on an electronic switch. The “new” aspect of electronic communication is found in its almost daily technological advancement. The increased availability of electronic communication mediums to the public has resulted in a number of “new” electronic devices entering our daily experience. Like the computer salesman of so many years ago, these advances are offered to God’s people with the claim: “This machine will change the way you live.” Consider the phenomenon of cell-phone texting. It is estimated that worldwide 192,000 text messages are sent every second (Ian Hardy of Mobile news, October 20, 2010).

Texting has been in wide spread use long enough to produce some visible changes in general society. These changes have resulted in a variety of responses as individuals and churches observe the use and abuse connected with texting. If you are one who uses texting, is it fair to say that it has the potential to change the way you live?

Texting has a number of aspects that can leave us tickled. It is discreet by its very nature. Pushing a few buttons sends a message telling someone that you will be late for an appointment without disrupting those around you. While messages are generally short, texting is an effective way of communicating concise information to another person who presumably understands the context of the message they receive. It is often more convenient than a fax or e-mail and is usually received almost immediately by the one to whom it is sent. Texting is simple, fast, and economical. Is it fair to say that texting has the potential to change the way you live?

Conversely; the widespread use of texting has produced a number of consequences that can leave people troubled. Because texting can be done discreetly, it carries with it the temptation to send or access information that we would avoid if personal contact were required. Texting has been used to evade personal contact and thus avoid accountability. “I know I promised I would be able to get that work to you today… I sent you a text saying I wouldn’t be by. Didn’t you get it?” While the availability of texting makes it quick and convenient, this same aspect can result in rapidly spreading information that does not stand the test of truthfulness. Unfortunate situations have developed when a text that was received was simply “forwarded” without the sender taking time to verify the facts.

The widespread use of texting has resulted in the establishment of “social etiquette” concerning its use. In society, sending or receiving a text during a movie or artistic performance is viewed as impolite, while texting during a meal is seen a blatantly rude. Society has even established places where texting is absolutely prohibited, such as college classrooms.

Those who express that they are troubled with texting generally point to examples that demonstrate a lack of self-discipline on the part of the user. If I was able to function for a number of years without texting and now I can’t even come to the supper table without it; is it fair to say that texting has changed the way I live?

A common ground claimed by both those that are tickled and those that are troubled with texting is the impact that it has had on relationships. Those who are tickled with texting see it as a tool to supplement those things required in Godly relationships. Individuals troubled by texting see it as a threat to the things required in Godly relationships. Each group agrees that texting has the potential to change the way we live.

Cellular phone texting is here to stay; until technological advancements come up with something new to replace it. No doubt this even newer technology will also have the potential to change the way I live. In reality, each new technology we embrace does change the way we live. How do we determine whether the changes—that we must admit are inevitable—are God honoring or only carnal and self serving? God’s Word, as always, must be the guide by which we live. Ephesians 4:29 tells us to “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” The rules that govern our oral communication must also govern our electronic communication. If our texting doesn’t edify or minister grace we can safely conclude that it will lead to troubled relationships with each other, and finally with God. As other Christians see the changes made in my life as a result of using this technology, will they be tickled or troubled?
Barnett MO
January 2011