Think B4 U text

The sender might feel they're softening their message by sending criticism by text instead of giving it in person. But not so, says UBC Okanagan psychology researcher Susan Holtzman.

Negative comments can have the same impact regardless of how they are delivered, she says.

“Text messaging has become a popular way for communication, including heated discussions," says Holtzman. “Our study is among the first to provide a clear picture of the emotional impact of receiving a critical text.”

Her team analyzed the emotional responses of 172 individuals between the ages of 18 and 25, who were given criticism in-person, through text messaging, or no feedback at all. 

“The emotional impact of criticism was strikingly similar for participants in the text message and in-person groups,” says Holtzman, an associate professor in UBC Okanagan’s Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences. “However, participants low on mindfulness, who tend to be more emotionally reactive, reported more hurt feelings when criticism was provided through a text message.

“People also tend to be less inhibited when they are texting, and that can lead to worse outcomes.”

Basically, she says don’t say anything in a text message that you wouldn’t be willing to say in person.

Research shows 95 per cent of adults own mobile phones in North America, and 41 per cent of users send more than 50 text messages a day.

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