"The problem, of course, is what's lost when that chit-chat goes. Developmental psychologists studying the impact of texting worry especially about young people, not just because kids are such promiscuous users of the technology, but because their interpersonal skills — such as they are — have not yet fully formed. Most adults were fixed social quantities when they first got their hands on a text-capable mobile device, and while their ability to have a face-to-face conversation may have eroded in recent years, it's pretty well locked in. Not so with teens. As TIME has reported previously, MIT psychologist Sherry Turkle is one of the leading researchers looking into the effects of texting on interpersonal development. Turkle believes that having a conversation with another person teaches kids to, in effect, have a conversation with themselves — to think and reason and self-reflect. "That particular skill is a bedrock of development," she told me."
Turkle cites the texted apology — or what she calls "saying 'I'm sorry' and hitting send" — as a vivid example of what's lost when we type instead of speak. "A full-scale apology means I know I've hurt you, I get to see that in your eyes," she says. "You get to see that I'm uncomfortable, and with that, the compassion response kicks in. There are many steps and they're all bypassed when we text." When the apology takes place over the phone rather than in person, the visual cues are lost, of course, but the voice — and the sense of hurt and contrition it can convey — is preserved.
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