New York Times' Ethicist Explores 'When Texting is Wrong'

To Text or not To a particular situation is a question the New York Times explores on Moral of the Story, their Ethicist columnist's blog. The issue:

You’re having dinner with your teenage kids, and they text throughout: you hate it; they’re fine with it. At the office, managers are uncertain about texting during business meetings: many younger workers accept it; some older workers resist. Those who defend texting regard such encounters as the clash of two legitimate cultures, a conflict of manners not morals. If a community — teenagers, young workers — consents to conduct that does no harm, does that make it O.K., ethically speaking?

We're not going to reveal all the answers here, but we will post the opening to the argument, which is addressed from a rather philosophical viewpoint:

Seek consent and do no harm is a useful moral precept, one by which some couples, that amorous community of two, wisely govern their erotic lives, but it does not validate ubiquitous text messaging. When it comes to texting, there is no authentic consent, and there is genuine harm.

Neither teenagers nor young workers authorized a culture of ongoing interruption. No debate was held, no vote was taken around the junior high cafeteria or the employee lounge on the proposition: Shall we stay in constant contact, texting unceasingly? Instead, like most people, both groups merely adapt to the culture they find themselves in, often without questioning or even being consciously aware of its norms. That’s acquiescence, not agreement.

From there the Ethicist covers everything from voting rights in colonial Williamsburg to the bizarre BlackBerry messaging induced chaos in the New York State Senate.

Wonder what any of this has to do with text messaging? Head over to the New York Times.

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