Excessive texting among teens and young adults damages natural development.  From the research articles I have read, here are general points of agreement:

  • Simplification.  People fail to grasp subtleties and intricacies.
  • Misunderstanding.  The enormous pool of emojis to convey emotions notwithstanding, the ability to catch feelings and nuances is lost without facial expressions and voice inflections.     
  • Anxiety.  Texting heightens impatience and increases the need for instant gratification.
  • Anger.  When texters don’t receive quick replies, they tend to misinterpret motives and feel offended.  Impulsive responses are common.
  • Laziness.  Texting takes less effort and 75% of millennials would rather text than talk.
  • Immorality.  A three-year study at the University of Winnipeg concluded that excessive texters place less importance on moral, aesthetic and spiritual goals and greater importance on wealth and image. 
  • Dullness.  The mind doesn’t make as many connections as it does with face-to-face conversations thus reducing deeper thought, innovation and creativity. 
  • Poor Social Skills.  Without in-person conversations, social skills diminish and in time empathy and compassion are lost.
  • Addiction.  Researchers equate excessive texting with drug and other addictions.  Known as the dopamine loop, sending a text expresses the craving; receiving a text becomes the temporary gratification.  Those especially needy to feel popular are more easily addicted.  In short, texting has become a drug.

Our Problem

The progress of the Church depends upon the activity and service of the truly converted. 

True conversion results from consistent scripture study and deep pondering.

Pondering and texting are antithetical. 

Excessive texting’s biggest threat to the Church is it prevents people from learning how to ponder.

Working backwards, I ask myself, “What people in history would have been least likely to have succumbed to a texting habit had it been available?  What habits did the most creative and successful people share?  How did they learn to think deeply.”

Successful people took walks.

Power of Walking

Accomplished composers, authors, and artists discovered the power of walking for the quiet pondering time it affords – philosophers Goethe and Kant; authors Dickens and Milton; statesmen Churchill and Gandhi; scientists Einstein and Tesla (who worked out the idea of alternating current while walking in a New York park); and especially famous composers.

  • Beethoven’s daily walks through Vienna and the surrounding countryside gave his mind room to wonder and take in inspiration.  The practice led him, as an example, to write his famous Pastoral Symphony – the awakening of cheerful feelings on arrival in the countryside, the smell of blossoms, of grain fields after a storm, and the sounds of villagers enjoying themselves all brilliantly captured in music.
  • Sibelius would walk the parks of Helsinki until he had composed a whole work, such as Finlandia (Be Still, My Soul), in his head, and only then put it to paper. 
  • As Schumann walked, “poems assumed melodic shape.” 
  • Tchaikovsky was such a dedicated walker (superstitious, he feared tragedy if he walked less than two hours a day) that he didn’t care if rain drenched him. 

What did these noted men of accomplishment find so beneficial in walks and why can we expect it to substitute for texting highs? 

First of all, it’s relaxing and changing scenery stimulates the playful mind.  Call it horizontal thinking where the mind as a radar sweeps both mental and physical horizons to collect interesting combinations, new ideas, fun stuff.  Playfully tinkering with sights and sounds of nature, we enjoy the excitement of serendipitous discovery.  

Later in the walk, the mind tires of play and seeks meaning.  It turns from radar to microscope and we have vertical thinking.  We drill down.  We push for deeper meaning and applications of the most promising ideas gathered from our radar.  We seek inspiration and the “aha” clarity that completes the two-step flow of creativity. 

At the University of Illinois, functional MRI scans of walkers compared to a more sedentary control group found that people who took long walks showed greater activity in the brain’s network for complex tasks. 

As it pertains to our current problem …

  • Walking produces a greater ability to detach from the world of shallow texting and the simplistic search for kicks.
  • It provides a break from routine and becomes a quiet space in nature conducive to the somber contemplation and meditation we know as pondering.
  • It produces a calmness coupled with the joy of discovering new ideas, new connections.
  • It is a physical exercise that stimulates the brain, something a workout in a gym or at home cannot duplicate. 
  • When a mind becomes more active, the desire for face-to-face conversations (“Let me tell you what I’ve been thinking!”) increases.

So ask, counsel, suggest, and even insist, if possible, that those burdened with a texting problem leave the smartphone and earbuds behind and take a daily, half-hour-minimum walk in any direction, city or countryside. 

It will stimulate pondering, and pondering strengthens testimonies. 

Not to be confused with “take a hike,” telling someone to “take a walk” is a good way to break the texting habit. 

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Gary Lawrence is the author of “The Magnificent Gift of Agency” available at Deseret Book, and the developer of the no-pressure comparison website whereagree.com to help the curious learn more about us.  Free pass-along cards available by emailing him at  [email protected]