Let's Talk About It!

with host John Panesko

Texting Changes Your Reality

I have a theory to share with you. I have observed that younger generations now communicate very differently than older generations and that is having a significant consequences which I’ll reveal. My theory is a variation of the old phrase, “you are what you eat”. What you take in, you put out. If you’re raised in a house that speaks French, you’ll speak french. If you’re raised in a house of profanity, you’ll use profanity. We are what we eat.

Today younger generations are raised in a house that communicates in short quips or phrases or even symbols appearing on the screen of a cell phone. Even though a young person seems to be isolated, staring into their cell phone, they’re really in a house with several friends who are having a conversation in short quips. This has a huge impact on their perception of reality.

How would you describe, for instance, a bitter encounter between two of your friends? In the old days you actually saw the encounter happening in your presence. You would observe their facial expressions, their body language, who moved forward, who moved back and you would have an accurate grasp of the actual event. When younger people grow up in a house of texting, all they see of a bitter encounter is the short quips written, and that’s all.

How often have you heard a young girl describe a bitter encounter by saying, for instance, Terrel was like, “What’s up” and Amanda was like, “You’re mean.” and Terrel was like, “Am not” and Amanda was like, “Whatever”. All the speaker can do is repeat the short quips written because that’s all they observed. If they say anything more about the encounter, they are just making it up. Let’s say for argument that such short quips are 20% of the actual encounter; only a tiny fraction of the actual event. Today’s youth have to guess the other 80%; they have to guess what the persons were thinking, feeling, and doing when they texted those short quips.

So the person witnessing this event on their hand-held screen has to make up in their own heads what is really going on, based on the tiny clues of written quips. That is dangerous. First of all, it’s unreliable. Secondly, a young person’s perception of their world comes from making up the missing 80% of an event with their own imagination of what really happened. When you are raised in a house where you make up 80% of your reality on a regular basis, you become very different from people who observe life directly.

Young people who spend a significant part of each day making up 80% of what is happening around them, slip into the bad habit of actually believing whatever they make up in their own heads. When a hundred times a day you make up 80% of your reality, your reaction to actual encounters changes. When a mother tells her teenage daughter to clean up her room, it’s easy for the daughter to reply, “You just hate me and want me to move out of the house.” leaving the mother perplexed. But younger people are constantly creating a huge portion of their own reality based on the short phrases that appear in their world.

If a young person believes that oil companies are evil while they drive to the protest in their car, it’s their reality. If they believe that banning plastic bags will save the planet, even if it’s something they made up in their own mind, it’s their reality. If they believe that they are doing a great job at work, even though their product is abysmal, it’s their reality. If you confront them with facts that challenge their reality, they have a strong motivation not to believe your facts.

The unintended consequence of living in a house of texting is that the occupants become used to creating and clinging to their own reality even if it is at odds with the real world. This self-delusion is increasing in our society and is prevalent among younger generations. Some of us will take profitable advantage of this change while the rest of us will be like, “Whatever”.