Here's an interesting article on the trend of teens texting incessantly, starring Sherry Turkle as the Concerned Parental Figure.
The article accompanies a recent interview with Turkle on Public Radio International's Here and Now.
PRI cites Turkle as saying the warning that the eels will start swimming in a new direction in response to this new trend:
"I talked to a lot of teens who feel that there is no choice because if they don't have it, people will think there's something wrong with them, people will think that they don't want to get back to their friends. And I think the social morays are going to start to move in a direction where you'll to see some push-back, both from grownups and teenagers."
Look, nobody's saying constant attachment to a cellphone is necessarily the most ideal scenario for the emotional development of teens. But, come on, Turkle: eels? Really?
My friend Katie heard Turkle speak a few months ago on exactly this issue. Apparently, Turkle herself has pointed out that traditional theories on and approaches to child development will need to be rethought--that the behaviors that traditional psychology would label abnormal are getting adopted nearly universally. In making this argument, Katie said, Turkle was referring to teens' practice of constantly holding their cellphones and refusing to put them away. It seems abnormal to us, Turkle said--but we're the ones who need to adapt. We need new guidelines to account for these new practices, new strategies for considering child development and teen behavior.
I'm not a psychologist, but it does seem to me that the nature of psychology is one of "adaptive rigidity." Homosexuality is therefore identified as "abnormal" until it becomes socially accepted, at which point the APA guidelines get adjusted. Making social connections online was considered "abnormal" and even, perhaps, an addiction as recently as the early years of this very decade; now, as engagement with social media has become more widespread, we're rethinking this dictum.
Text messaging as a dominant form of communication seems abnormal to older adults--but that's because we're used to a face-to-face world and not a peer-to-peer one. The new behaviors that become possible through new media formats always seem unhealthy to us at first, until we develop the kinds of complex relationships to the platforms that we humans are wont to do.