This summer I had the pleasure of going to my second Dave Matthews Band concert at the Dodge Music Center (formerly the Meadows) with a friend of mine. It was an incredible experience, but the big thing that really stuck in my mind was something Dave Matthews said to the crowd. He said he could tell the times have changed since everyone in the crowd pulled out cell phones instead of lighters to wave in the air in celebration of his music. Everyone in this generation seems to have a cell phone, including my eleven-year old brother. And on top of everyone having cell phones, most people are addicted to text messaging and instant messaging on the computer and the Internet.

   Everyone I know is hooked on Facebook or Myspace or another type of online ‘friendship’ website. People that are my parent’s age will look at these new crazes with confusion and think that this generation has gone insane. The new technologies for teens and young adults have helped advance the culture, but these changes have triggered a giant step back in basic communication.

   For example, text messaging is a quicker and easier way to get in touch with a friend at all times, but it has also destroyed the world of face-to-face communication. Teens and young adults are becoming more apprehensive then ever to talk about meaty subjects, or anything for that matter, in person. Instead they would rather talk about the issue via text message or online. The art of face-to-face communication is slowly going down the tubes. People are becoming afraid to express themselves completely in person because society has provided easier outlets for them to do this and save them from embarrassment.

   When someone sends a text message about a potentially “scary” subject the other person has time to think about what to say in response, instead of being put on the spot face to face. When you text message you don’t have to deal with facial expressions, and potentially awkward moments that take place in person. In some cases this new technology can be helpful, but ultimately it is hurting the old ways of communicating. People my age rarely talk on the phone and when they do it is often choppy and difficult to even have a decent conversation. People my age would rather hide behind the mask of text messaging, or online chatting, to have conversations.

   For example, one of my college friends can hold a decent conversation in person, but online he and I have some of the best conversations I have ever had because he is concealed behind a computer. Sadly, he is not the only person like this. More and more young people are hiding behind their technology to conduct conversations.

   Some people may say at least the youth are still talking to each other instead of becoming hermits, right? At least they are holding some form of conversation, who cares that it isn’t in person? I guess I can somewhat understand this argument, but face-to-face communication is the most direct and important form of communication there is. Experts in communication have said for years that body language, facial expression and tone of voice are critically important to understanding the meaning of words. Without these signals words are easily mis-interpreted. If face to face communication disappears this society should not be described as a social one.

   Over the course of the last five years, text messaging has spread through my generation like wildfire. It is a quicker way to get in touch with another person without having to talk to them on the phone, or in person. At first it seemed as though text messaging was invented for someone to quickly ask a friend a question about dinner, or a subject a bit more important that could not wait. But now it has turned into a way for people to have day long conversations about nothing at all. Another friend in college has an obsession with text messaging. She will sit and text her friends back home for hours, and in the end they’ve communicated about nothing.

   They should create a wing in a rehab center dedicated to textaholics. Texting has become a disease and an obsession, and I am not immune. I spend way too much time text messaging. It is important to me and I’m struggling to figure out why.

   This year I am asking for a new cell phone for Christmas. But while I’m shopping for phones I’m not just looking for clear service, I want a phone that is easy to text message with.

   Times have changed so much that I turned down an offer to receive a brand new iPhone because the touch screen would hinder my quickness to text message friends. My dad thought I was nuts, but the Blackberry phone seemed like a more viable option because it has a magic keypad so it is much easier and faster to type a text message. Many teens are looking at phones for the same exact reason. It doesn’t matter if the phone may look snazzy or have other enticing features; youth want a phone that helps feed their texting hunger.

   As nice as it is to reach a friend at all times and have long text conversations with them, it can also be quite a burden. It’s technically a new form of rejection. For example, if someone texts a few of her friends about something and no one responds, it makes that person feel like a loser. It’s also a way for someone to show a false form of popularity. If they are getting a bunch of text messages and someone else is not, it makes them seem like they have more friends and are the more popular person. It doesn’t mean that it is true, but it’s just a way for young adults to boost their self-esteem.

   Young people do this with Facebook and Myspace as well. They friend request more people then they actually know, and it makes them feel more popular and accepted because they have more “friends” than someone else. In reality, a person may only know half the people that they are “friends” with on these websites. It provides a false bravado for people. Facebook is a very popular website among college students. It’s a fun way to leave messages for each other, to stay in touch with friends that live far away, and to post pictures of the fun adventures that take place in our lives. It’s also another new technology that is tearing the communication world apart.

   Young people have so many avenues in which to express themselves that they avoid talking face-to-face, or even on the phone. Society has provided an easy escape for kids to avoid dealing with the hardships of actually talking to another person. Yes, it may be hard to break up with a girlfriend or boyfriend in person, but it is the right thing to do. We need to learn how to communicate in a healthier way.

   The holiday season is almost upon us and instead of families spending time together around a roaring fire, a new picture of family life has evolved; a mother drives while her son sits in the passenger seat with headphones on listening to his iPod while the daughter sits in the back texting her boyfriend.

   No one is talking.

   New technology, although it can be fun and exciting, is ruining the art of communication and conversation in our society. Public speaking has long been the number one fear of most Americans. Many people have told researchers that they fear public speaking more than they fear death. Pretty soon if my generation doesn’t start talking to each other face to face, the fear of public speaking may be replaced by the fear of a casual conversation.