Keep me in the loop

The risks we take for social connection

In this era of easily accessible communication, the desire to stay socially connected is more prevalent than ever. While owning a mobile phone was once considered a novelty reserved for the elite few, we now live in a culture where not owning a mobile phone is considered an extremity. The use of mobile phones has shifted the way we communicate to each other, with the functionality of SMS technology enabling people to communicate via short and concise messages with convenience. The appeal of texting over other forms of phone communication appears rooted in its time insensitive nature. That is, unlike receiving a call, SMS messages received do not require an immediate response, can be viewed and responded to at the convenience of the recipient, so are less intrusive.

Given that logic and research would suggest the appeal of texting is rooted in its time INSENSITIVE nature. This then begs the question: Why do some people text when they drive? What is the urgency? Given that an SMS text can be viewed and responded to at the convenience of the recipient, surely the act of driving would not be a convenient, let alone, safe time to respond to a text! What fascinates me is the reasoning behind this. We know we have the power to respond to a text at whichever time we please; we know that driving while texting is distracting and can cause serious accidents; and we know that it is extremely dangerous, yet many people still walk the tightrope of texting while driving. Why?

My theory is that we all experience different levels of pressure to remain socially connected. Perhaps we impose different levels of 'social' urgency on ourselves. By social urgency, I'm referring to our desire to remain socially connected, to be 'in the loop' at all times. Thus despite the fact that texting itself is not time sensitive, we may impose on ourselves the pressure to respond in a timely manner given the level of urgency we feel to stay socially connected.

Perhaps then, this behaviour can be explained by a cost versus benefit analysis where those who place greater pressures of social urgency on themselves may feel the benefits of sending that one "I'll c u at lunch" text outweigh the obvious dangers of doing so while driving. The irony here is that functionally, texting was designed to allow users the freedom of being a non-urgent mode of communication; however, in the case of text while driving, we ourselves have imposed urgency on it - something to ponder the next time you're on the road and hear that familiar buzz...

Words by Jen Chong

Posted on 01 June 2013 in - Temenos Journal - Time - Culture and Society

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