Bzzz. I heard it from the other side of the classroom. Bzzz. It was a familiar noise – the sound of a cell phone set to vibrate instead of ring. I presume that the buzzing is a better alternative to whatever trendy rap song of the week ring tone would have played, had the volume been turned up. But I am still irritated.
I quickly glance up and down the aisles to see who could possibly be interrupting my concentration. A girl in the second row leans down and pulls her shiny magenta Razr from her bag. She flips it open and scans the glowing screen briefly before maneuvering her thumb across the keypad, punching the keys in a style similar to typing.
This is a process that I’m sure most of us see or do several times each day: text messaging.
Defined by Cingular Wireless as “the ability of sending and receiving short messages on your phone,” text messaging has become a prominent form of communication.
Many cell phone companies have even partnered with news organizations so that users can get up-to-the-minute information about the latest events. According to T-Mobile, you can have weather updates, news headlines and sports scores texted directly to you several times a day.
Many radio stations now have listeners
text the station, instead of calling, to win prizes. And many cable stations are now running commercials to advertise services that provide a daily joke or horoscope once the viewers text a designated number. Text messaging is everywhere.
Despite the fact that it was designed to be a discreet way to communicate, text messaging has, for some people, become a seemingly pervasive addiction. And one that has the possibility of making the text messenger appear unprofessional
Take, for example, a professional development event I attended last week.The Public Relations Student Society of America and the American Marketing Association
co-hosted “Business Meets Communications,”
a panel discussion featuring six speakers from both the public relations and the marketing disciplines and moderated by Emmy award-winner Howard Joffe.
Business casual dress was required. The event was purposefully structured and professionally executed. As I sat in the third row, listening to these speakers from major corporations and businesses discuss their jobs and give helpful career advice, I couldn’t help but stare at the girl in the second row with her cell phone open, texting for the entire hour of the presentation.
While this would’ve been distracting even if we’d been sitting in the rear of the room, the action was even more inappropriate because the girl was in the direct line of vision of all six panelists and Joffe. Not to mention, it was rude. Cong Nguyen, director of finance for Temple’s chapter of the American Marketing Association and a member of the planning committee for “Business Meets Communications” agreed.
According to Nguyen, this behavior is not consistent with the professionalism required by his group.
“If you think it is appropriate to send text messages in front of the speakers, you should not be in any professional organization, period.”
And this was not an isolated incident. It occurs during class, at the movies – some people even text and drive.
This is not to say that text messaging is always an inappropriate form of communication.
I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes, texting is a more direct way to convey messages.
So, before you flip open your own phone, take a moment to assess the situation and know when to postpone the message.
Erica Palan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.