Thumb Culture
How are cell phones affecting youth communication?



A crowd of teenagers huddles together on a sidewalk. But they’re not talking to each other. Their heads are bent down, and their thumbs are busy pushing tiny buttons on their cell phones.

This scene provides a glimpse-one of dozens we see each day –of Asia’s “thumb culture” Young cell-phone users are extremely adept at typing text messages using only their thumbs. These rapidly typed messages help them keep constantly in touch with one another. Increasingly, this constant messaging is replacing more traditional forms of communication.

Many young people think hand-written greeting cards are old-fashioned. Instead, they send a holiday greeting or birthday wish by text message. They can reach as many people as they want with a single text message. They pass on jokes and good news through digital greetings. In China , even marriage proposals have been sent in text messages!

Text-messaging is so popular that people actually hold speed-typing competitions. In 2004, a woman from Singapore typed a 25-word text message in less than 44 seconds.

Of course, this woman isn’t the only person with super-fast text-messaging skills. Many young cell-phone users can dash off whole messages in under a minute. But all this rapid and constant thumb-typing has led to at least one unexpected consequence.

It’s created a new health problem, known as “text-messaging injury.” Cell –phone users sometimes develop severe swelling and pain in their thumbs. This injury is caused by the thumb making the same small movements hundreds of times a day.

“Because the movements are small, they do not cause the blood to circulate,” said Andrew Chadwick, an expert from the U.K. “That means the fingers are acting like an engine without oil.”

Doing “finger stretches” before and after text-messaging can reduce the health risk. Experts also recommend text-messaging no more than an hour and a half a day. The key is to keep messages short. Fortunately, cell-phone users have developed their own special abbreviations. That makes typing easier, and just might help prevent sore thumbs, too. CU L8ER!


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