How Texting Touches Our Mental Health

texting

To text, or not to text, is hardly the question for those born between the late 1970s and late 1990s. Text messaging is that generation’s communication of choice and is used extensively by other generations as well.

To say whether this keyboard thumbing is good or bad for our mental health depends on many factors, and for every texting research study with a negative outcome you can find a study with positive results.

Most researchers agree that today’s tsunami of screen technology has and will affect the development of children’s brains. There is speculation that people will lose the patience necessary for delayed gratification, and also the ability to tolerate mental stillness.

However, some academics believe the brain changes are an evolutionary inevitability, and at least one researcher refers to adolescent texting as tribal behavior. Teenagers of every generation have had their own tribal behaviors; texting is one of the current ones.

Whatever your opinion, experts recommend people of all ages unplug for part of every day to give their neurons a rest. While resting, you can look over some pros and cons for texting that have been discovered or suggested.

Texting Pros

  1. There is evidence that people suffering from depression feel a bit happier (connected, cared for) upon receiving a text message.
  2. Text message reminders helped subjects in a research study stay on track with monitoring their mood, journaling, and taking their medications as prescribed.
  3. Many people with low incomes do not have a computer or iPad, but they have cell phones and can be reached by texting.
  4. Adolescents may be more open to getting help for mental health issues via texting. So, organizations such as Mental Health America have added a texting alternative to their crisis line.

Texting Cons

  1. It is easier for people to lie when texting than when speaking in person or via web cam. Texting provides more anonymity.
  2. Texting is another barrier to a good night's sleep for some insomniacs who are easily awakened and feel compelled to answer their phone’s buzz.
  3. Texting may feed the self-centeredness of a narcissist and exacerbate symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder. (Although, if narcissists and compulsive people had their phones confiscated, they would find something else to indulge in and obsess over.)
  4. Many people receive texts when eating out with a friend, or while having dinner with the family, disrupting quality face to face time and potentially damaging relationships. Some fear our social and conversational skills will erode further than they already have.

How Much Is Definitely Too Much?

One study with adolescents defined hyper-texting as sending above 120 messages per school day. During a six-hour school day, that would average out to 20 texts per hour. No matter how many studies are run, common sense tells you that 20 texts an hour will disrupt a student's performance in school.

Though common sense will usually be all that’s required for texting guidance, you may want to limit your own, or a child’s texting if:

  1. There is a drop in school or work performance
  2. Not reading and answering a text immediately causes anxiety, or aggressive behavior
  3. You frequently pick up your phone because it is buzzing only to discover it is not
  4. Texting is interfering with maintaining important relationships (family, friends)
  5. Texting intensifies symptoms of a mental illness

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