Kids today…

Imagine Anne sitting at her computer working on her English assignment. As she types, the bottom of her computer screen is blinking. Someone has sent her an instant message. Her mind quickly shifts gears as she answers the message, then quickly changes gears again as she gets a text message.

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By Raylyn Rollins – Special to Viewpoints

By Raylyn Rollins – Special to Viewpoints

Imagine Anne sitting at her computer working on her English assignment.

As she types, the bottom of her computer screen is blinking. Someone has sent her an instant message. Her mind quickly shifts gears as she answers the message, then quickly changes gears again as she gets a text message. When she gets back to her essay, her train of thought is lost.

One top of her frequent disruptions, she is constantly misspelling words and using abbreviations like “u,” “4” and “tho.”

This scene is occurring frequently with college students. The effects of shorthand conversations through instant messaging and text messaging are showing up in English classes and hindering writing abilities.

The story is the same: College students from all over have been relying on instant messaging for fast, quick and easy conversation for the past several years.

However, the instant gratification and short, simple sentences may be affecting the writing abilities of college students. Rather than writing intelligent, thoughtful papers, many students are becoming too direct and are not as able to construct complex thoughts or sentences.

The effects of instant messaging are steadily becoming more apparent in essays, thought processes, arguments and other aspects of English classes. Students find it harder to construct a thorough argument because most of their conversations are direct enough to fit in a few characters in a text message.

RCC student Ashley Unrath says that abbreviations and short sentences come from trying to save room in text messaging documents. As a person who uses text messages, she sees the negative aspect of such quick communication.

“Not only does this hurt students when they go to actually write a real paper or essay,” Unrath said. “It makes them look and sound illiterate and unintelligent as well.”

Lack of writing abilities show up more than just in essays. According to RCC English instructor Thatcher Carter, the problem is not only non-developed writing; students are also affected outside the classroom as well.

“When students are using all of their breaks and passing periods to instant message or text message,” Carter said. “They do not give themselves time to think, sift through ideas, reflect on their classes, talk with other students, or be still. I think that this is an incredible loss.”

RCC student Eric McKibben agrees.

“As soon as I’m out of the classroom, I’m on my cell phone,” he said.

Multi-tasking adds to the problem. Many times when students are writing academic papers, the instant messaging system is on, the cell phone is nearby, or a Web site is up. Students can easily flip to one or the other, then back to the essay, disrupting their train of thought and adding to the short, underdeveloped sentences.

Students also experience more impatience in general due to such fast forms of communication.

“When I send a question, if it takes a few minutes to get back, I wonder where they’ve gone,” McKibben said.

Rather than allowing time for thought, college students many times just send a quick reply to a simple question. Fitting questions into a text message has lowered the amount of serious questions among students.

The effects of text messaging and instant messaging are sure to linger. Many jobs in the professional world require writing in some form. If students are forgetting how to write at the college lever, their professional careers could suffer.

Fixing the problem is a tough job; there may not be a simple answer. Future generations may be especially affected because they have had the influence of instant messaging their entire lives. A person cannot simply erase years of practiced behavior and automatically have developed, complex writing.

The solution may be as simple as turning off the cell phone for a few minutes after class in order to soak up what has just been taught. Fully reviewing and realizing reactions to the material will go a long way in developing arguments. Maybe for some it means turning off the instant messaging system while writing a paper.

A solution may be hard to realize, but instant messaging, blogging and computers are not all bad.

Carter says that blogging is a good medium because writers can express themselves freely, get feedback and address an imaginary audience, all critical to the writing process.

Instant messaging and text messaging are essential to college students, according to San Diego State University journalism major Melissa Harrison.

“It’s the No. 1 way to keep in contact,” she said.

The conveniences of quick messages are helpful to students; they help control cell phone minutes and are helpful when you need quick answers. However, the true effects of instant messaging are yet to be fully realized.

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