On 18 August 2010, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) released an article stating that current adolescents are more likely to lose their hearing than those of previous generations, not just because of the loud music they expose their ears to with snug earbuds, but also because they are constantly texting and instant messaging to each other to a point where social aural contact is almost a thing of the past.
However, it makes me wonder if this article happened to look at the social communications of on-line communities. I'm not talking about in-game text chat and internet forum communities, but programs—Skype, Ventrillo, and TeamSpeak—that are used for voice communication between participants. It's been used as a way to convey orders during clan wars, for video makers to give directions to their actors in game, or just to chat with others and have a good time.
It's quite an interesting to compare one's own life to this. I personally text my friends in real life more than I actually call them (unless it's something requiring an immediate response). Yet when it comes to communicating with my friends on-line, I go for the voice chat. Perhaps it's because with on-line communications, an actual voice gives some personality to a person we don't see beyond the pixels, while in real life because we already see these people on a daily basis face to face, texting seems to help take out the extra information we may already have about this person.
This alternative social life is able to take in almost every aspect of a normal voice conversation with people we know in real life. Take for example, the popular "drama." We can argue that this is a normal human social interaction result, but consider just how heated things can get between the players who just barely know each other beyond the gaming environment. Just from the little information we know of the people we talk with, we can suddenly go from very amicable teammates to very aggressive mudslingers.
Is this to say that in the real life stance we're becoming more unsocial? Absolutely not. We're just changing the way we're communicating with people we know. Is this to say that we're living on the internet more than we do in real life? I don't think so. The internet has provided us a means to communicate with more than the five to one hundred odd people that we see every day, and we end up learning from them. Companies already have their workers communicating with people overseas via e-mail, instant messengers, or voice-over internet programs. It's not a new thing at all.
Maybe we need to stop worrying about going deaf because we're not communicating enough verbally, but look at how how it's actually shifting arenas. We all know that we're exposing ourselves to a lot of noise outside, and maybe that's why we're relying so much on text so we don't need to try to shout over the sounds of construction, traffic, and the conversation of others chatting on the phone. Yet at home or in the office, where things are actually quiet, that's where we can actually use voice chat instead of trying to scramble out a message while focusing on other tasks as well. We can be thankful to the studies done to protect our hearing. We shouldn't assume that we're going deaf because we don't talk enough on the phone. There's still so much to exercise our ears with around the world thanks to the internet.