Since the current surge in technology specifically for no contract cell phones through the past decade or so, more and more gadgets have sunk their teeth into cultural lexicon and shaped the way communication in modern society has functioned. The iPod has made CDs virtually useless. The Kindle has taken books out of the paperbacks and onto the digital screen. GPS has substituted the atlas. But nothing has an effect quite like the advent of text messaging for mobile phones and sometimes the no contract cell phones.
Practically every cell phone on the market is capable of text messaging, which as of 2007 is the most widely used mobile data service in the world with over 2.4 billion customers. In Scandinavia – Sweden, Norway, and Finland – over 85% of the population uses text messaging. It’s effortless to see why text messaging has become so common so quickly. All service providers offer some form of text messaging and the feature is even accessible on no contract cell phones.
The majority of service providers offer a flat rate for texts, while others offer unlimited texting, while no contract cell phones often charge on a per use time frame. This allows virtually anyone with a cell phone to communicate on the fly 160 characters at a time, without having to devote the time or attention to holding a verbal conversation when it may be undesired or uncalled for. Users can receive a message and reply to it at their discretion and typically needn’t fear to receive a text during conditions where it may be inappropriate to converse verbally.
So typical is text messaging that an entire system of manners has formulated around the technology that is very diverse and stands wide apart from that expected during a regular phone call. Responses need not be instant unless otherwise noted, and there is no harm in texting someone when they are unable to speak with the intention of leaving the message for them to read later – a practice much more practical and succinct than leaving a voice message. Text messages are also typically saved and much simpler to reopen for quick reference than a voice message so that texts with important data such as directions or reminders can be consulted on the fly. Users can even send pictures and often time audio files such as music or sound bites along with texts.
Text messaging has had such an impact and is so popular among users that an entire language – of sorts – has designed around the technology. The strategies of typing on a small keyboard or phone keypad mixed with the typically restrained character limit have lead in a sort of shorthand English comprised widely of acronyms, abridged spelling, emoticons and other symbols that are widely understood by many users across the globe. The lingo even sports a consistency and popularity wide enough to warrant the presence of several dictionaries and glossaries cataloging such terms and abbreviations. Many fear that such a truncation of the English language has done it harm, though whether this is true or not is unimportant to the question of whether text messaging has had an effect on society, and on the contrary supports that conclusion.