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Mobile Text Messaging: Silly Communication? 

By Elizabeth Chinonmso .O* — The mobile phone and internet came to change the way people communicate. The new technologies have made communication cheaper, faster, easier and more enjoyable. While some people are inclined to use the internet and mobile phone for knowledge, information, awareness and exposure, others seem to misuse the devices. The youth especially, have changed a lot by the usage of the internet and the cellular phone.

As the knowledge on mobile phone use increases especially among youth, texting seems to have become one of their favourite modes of communication as six out of the ten youth The Post interviewed said they preferred texting to talking on phone because texting gives them a better opportunity to express themselves freely. Furthermore, it has been realised that most youth would find it difficult to communicate fluently face to face but will flow quite naturally when texting especially on emotional issues.

If the cellular phone has made communication freer and easier among the youth, a new study, however, indicates that texting encourages youth to behave impulsively without thinking things through hence, leading them most times to act irrationally.  “I prefer texting because I am a shy person and find it really tormenting talking to a guy about my feelings especially a guy I have feelings for. With texting, I am at liberty to send him all the love words I can think of,” Reene-Zita Sona says.

According to Krist Monono, guys love texting girls because “when a guy stands in front of a girl most times he becomes very tense and so cannot adequately express himself coherently, but after he succeeds in getting her number the rest is easy.” “Because, alone, without her watching me and intimidating me, I can freely collect my thoughts to send her a heart-melting text that will really convince her to go out with me,” Monono told The Post.

Recounting a personal experience, one Miss Ebangha said she had this very good friend who had a crush on her but never said a word about his feelings while they were together but would send her all sorts of love texts. Pella Bobs, University of Buea student, said, for him, mobile text messaging has really encouraged dating.

According to him, most girls communicate more freely during messaging rather than face to face, especially when confronted with issues of the heart. “There was this situation were I asked a course mate out and she turned me down, so I left. But a few hours later I received a text from her confessing her true feelings towards me. She said she really loved me but found it difficult to give me a positive response, especially as her friends were around,” Pella said.

Miss Bobga Kahli says texting influences dating because as a girl, “there are times when we are lonely and look for something to remind us that someone loves and cherishes us. “So what I usually do in such situations is that I go through some of the messages that guys have sent me, read them again and sometimes a text captivates my heart and from there love grows within me for the guy. That is why you might see a girl resisting a guy’s advances for a long time but after awhile accepts him.”

For Unique Dobgima, mobile phones can be considered as an answered prayer. “It has greatly reduced the resistance level of most girls towards my love advances and has also reduced insults from the girls towards me. Most girls love messages especially poetic ones,” Dobgima said.

The rapid proliferation of mobile phones, apart from its effects on youth, also comes with a price. Unlike a few years back when mobile phones were owned only by businessmen, rich civil servants and some fortunate parents whose children were either abroad or rich enough to buy for them, today one can see young people brandishing the latest handsets in the market.

Some of the youth believe that holding less expensive phones could downgrade their self-esteem in front of their friends. “I would rather stay without a phone than buy one that costs less than FCFA 20.000, because such cheap phones are no longer in fashion,” says Becky Evenye, a student at the University of Buea. 

This is the mindset of most youth concerning mobile phones. Some will go the extra mile just to get a sophisticated one, even when their parents cannot afford it. This often drives the youth to some social ills like prostitution, scamming, theft and other fraudulent activities. Sandrine Nzoyim said that a friend gave her a cellular phone as a souvenir before travelling abroad and that while at times she uses her allowance to buy airtime, most times friends help her out by sending her credit.

While Dobgima said he was able to buy his dream phone from the money he got after working at the GCE Board secretariat during the exams period, Vera Kang said her boyfriend bought a phone for her as a birthday present, since her mother refused to buy her one. Besides, irrational texting, courting and the difficulty in acquiring a mobile phone, some parents revealed to The Post that although they know about the negative effects of mobile phones they cannot do without it.

“I think youth get easily distracted by their phones when they give it to much attention. For example, most youth will prefer to play music and chat with friends instead of concentrating on their book work, thereby leading to poor performances in school. But still we cannot do without since it eases communication,” says Thaddeus Ntani.

For George Atem, it is not the mobile phones that are the problem but the activities that they make people engage in which produces the negative outcomes. “For example, I buy a phone for my child so that she can call me if she wants anything or even communicate with her friends, but if along the line he or she decides to use it negatively, then you cannot lay all the blames on the mobile,” Atem said.

Mrs. Stella Amah says a phone is a necessary evil because “we all know that the society is bad and giving your child a phone is like connecting her to the dangers outside not only to harmful relationships, but also from other youth who will go as far as sending prank messages and calls to their mates just to scare them. Such things could really disturb a child psychology but still, we cannot do without the mobile phone. It has come to stay, and it eases communication for me so I have to get a phone for my kids.”

*(UB Journalism Student on Internship)

First published in The Post print edition no 01370

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