An article is making me rethink my use of texting.
Back in 1959, anthropologist Edward T. Hall labeled these expressive human attributes "the Silent Language." Hall passed away last month in Santa Fe at age 95, but his writings on nonverbal communication deserve continued attention. He argued that body language, facial expressions and stock mannerisms function "in juxtaposition to words," imparting feelings, attitudes, reactions and judgments in a different register.
We live in a culture where young people—outfitted with iPhone and laptop and devoting hours every evening from age 10 onward to messaging of one kind and another—are ever less likely to develop the "silent fluency" that comes from face-to-face interaction. It is a skill that we all must learn, in actual social settings, from people (often older) who are adept in the idiom. As text-centered messaging increases, such occasions diminish. The digital natives improve their adroitness at the keyboard, but when it comes to their capacity to "read" the behavior of others, they are all thumbs.
If we combine a generation of children who fail to develop social language skills and combine it with the prevalence of "helicopter" parents who work to keep their children from failure, we are faced with a future of non-adaptive adults who will remain drones .
In my work in Family Law, I have seen increasingly divorced parents who refuse to communicate with other except through texts. Much of this stems either from animosity, discomfort with confrontation, or a combination of both. Imagine having a conversation as to whether your 16-year-old son is mature enough to get his drivers license by text. It is crazy . . . but it is done.
I have friends who heavily text. I do not have unlimited text and I wonder if they are beginning to notice that I call them back when they text me. Texting is convenient - for example, asking someone to text an address or an email, so I have that information stored in my phone. Or it is 9:30 pm and I have a question that is not an emergency, but it would be helpful if I could get an answer now . . . I text out of deference to the possibility they may already be in bed.
But that silent language - let me give some advice to Family Law litigants in California. Trial is done before the bench, i.e., the judge - there is no jury. And yes, quite often things are reduced to a "he said, she said" scenario. But the judge is determining the credibility of the witnesses based upon not only to what are testifying, but how they are testifying. Deficiencies in that silent language can cost you your case.