We communicate so frequently through computers and mobile devices that text slang has become commonplace. Even former English majors or others who are picky about grammar and spelling have gotten used to terms like “lol” and “smh” as regular elements in typed conversation, and really there’s nothing wrong with that. Slang terms like these are quick and convenient, and they can sometimes express more than a handful of words might be able to. However, when you go too far with text slang, particularly in the context of conversations with a significant other, there’s some evidence to suggest you may be harming your relationship.
Somewhat surprisingly, there actually aren’t very many surveys about how people in relationships feel regarding text conversations. But what data we do have, as well as some of the information and opinions out there about the spread of “text speak” in general, suggest that too many abbreviations might not be good for fostering a deeper romantic connection.
On a very basic level, and without specific regard to relationships, some have come to believe that text messaging is ruining English. This at least is the theory put forth in a thoughtful blog post at Dictionary.com, of all places. The article largely concludes that people who use text slang (and particularly kids) actually do tend to recognize where texting stops and more formal communication begins. As such, they use proper English when necessary. But even this conclusion suggests that text slang is less sophisticated or cheaper in some way. It’s suggested that examples like “lol” might be considered immature by some, despite the fact that they’re used with incredible frequency in text-based conversation.
Given these ideas, it’s worth considering just how prevalent text slang has become. Once upon a time, we thought of these terms as being used primarily in actual text messaging or online instant messages, but they’ve now come to be prevalent in pretty much any tech-based social environment. Demonstrating this point, one of the more thorough glossaries of chat lingo actually exists at an online bingo platform, where it’s actually necessary for some of the gamers. Given that their bingo rooms facilitate live chat, text slang is popular in the environment and it’s necessary for players to understand various abbreviations. This shows how far beyond the occasional “lol” in a text message chat slang has gone. In ways, it’s almost like a code in certain online environments.
And as text slang becomes more and more popular, it’s only natural that it would also become more prevalent among couples, who generally communicate with each other more frequently than most friends or family members. Many couples these days, particularly in younger age groups, are texting constantly, and chat lingo certainly comes into play. However, it can also leave one partner feeling left out. An analysis of frequent complaints regarding texting pointed out that a short response can feel rude or inadequate. Closing out a conversation with “k” or “ttyl” feels abrupt compared to fuller, more personal conversation. Thus, too many abbreviations and short, quick comments can be emotionally harmful, no matter how convenient they might be.
Backing up this idea, one of the few major studies out there about how texting affects relationships showed that volume is not as important as content. In other words, it doesn’t matter how many messages you and your significant other might rifle back and forth to each other. Over time, it’s the deeper and more real communications that matter. In fact, some people surveyed even reported lower relationship satisfaction while texting frequently.
These are not definitive findings, and it’s valid to believe that each couple has its own style of communication. But as text slang becomes more common, it’s also wise to consider whether or not it might be cheapening your interactions with the people you love most.