But that’s not the only trouble texting can cause. We all know about driving and texting dangers. But do you as a safety pro really want to text coworkers and colleagues unvarnished views on your employer?
“How does someone make up an excuse when what is happening is right there, written in black and white?” asked Mitchell Karpf, a Miami divorce lawyer who is also chairman of the bar association’s family law section. “By the time someone shows up with a handful of texts, there is no going back.”
Again, this applies beyond marital infidelities of the Tiger Woods variety. Texting creates an electronic trail. Although most e-mail users have come to understand that messages remain on their computers even if deleted, text messages are often regarded as more ephemeral — type, hit “send” and off it goes into the ether.
But messages can remain on the sender’s and receiver’s phones, and even if they are deleted, communications companies store them for anywhere from days to a few weeks. AT&Tsaid that, at most, it saved text messages for 72 hours while Verizonsaid it saved them for 5 to 10 days.
The problem in and out of the workplace will probably only grow as a new, text-dependent generation of employees take up residence in cubiculand. Text messages now outnumber mobile voice calls three to one, according to the Nielsen Company. Monthly messages sent or received jumped to 584 a person in the quarter ending in September, a 60 percent increase from a year earlier.
“People who have something really private to say probably shouldn’t do it in a text on their cellphone,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a public interest research group based in Washington.
In a recent survey of 2,300 adults about social networking, the Pew Internet and American Life Projectfound that 12 percent said they had shared information online that they later regretted posting.
Posting on a social network is not the same as sending a text message. But Lee Rainie, director of the Pew project, contends it is evidence of an overall cultural shift in which people have become increasingly careless about revealing personal information they cannot take back.
“It is one thing to write a personal note to someone who shares it with her two best friends,” said Mr. Rainie. “It is another thing to text your complaints and grievances and become an office alien, perhaps destined to walk the plank.
Unlike with computers, Professor Sherry Turkle of the University of Massachusetts said consumers have a deeply personal connection to their cellphones, where they keep contact lists and family photos. “They carry them in their pockets,” she said, “next to their skin.”
One woman Professor Turkle spoke to for a study was so grief-stricken after she had misplaced her cellphone that she described the loss as a death. “People feel it is an extension of their body and mind,” the professor said.