There is an old metaphor that compares a tube of toothpaste to the words we say: once the toothpaste has been squeezed out, we can never put it back into the tube. Accordingly, once our words have been said, we can never unsay them. This has become especially true in the age of technological communication, when every text, email and direct message is recorded permanently in cyberspace, exactly as written. However, Beam Messenger, a new mobile app, may significantly alter the existing dynamic of text message permanence.
The app, developed by Beam Propulsion lab, aims to increase transparency in the realm of mobile communication. Messages typed by one person render in front of the other in real time; enabling the recipient to see the sender’s thoughts as they develop—including typos, edits and deletes. Beam’s Google Play page boasts a variety of benefits over traditional texting, including a more dynamic conversation, the ability to address what your friend is typing mid-sentence and generally being “the closest you will get” to real-life conversation.
I’ll be the first to admit, I spend way too much time editing my texts before I send them. Given the limited transparency of texting in its current state, I, like many others, feel the need to make sure each message is perfectly fashioned before being sent out in order to eliminate as much ambiguity as possible. This often entails spending three to five minutes thinking out loud in order to properly formulate a thought that can be stated in two sentences. Amidst these struggles, texters everywhere should be rejoicing over the simplicity Beam brings to nonverbal conversation: the opportunity to “think out loud” via text.
Yet, a recent article in The Atlantic cites the appeal of “non-transparency” and “the freedom to be noncommittal” as positive aspects of the modern texting. These claims, however, are completely unjustifiable.
Intentional vagueness benefits nobody, and is inherently counterintuitive to the process of communication. Sure, you may not want your friends to have the ability to read your every thought, or see your well-crafted joke before you type the punch line, but real-time rendering would be a complement to traditional messaging, not a substitute. After all, your friends won’t have the app open 24/7, and nothing would prevent you from, say, typing a message in an outside application and pasting it into your messaging app.
They say words are only 7% of communication. While texting will never be able to fully replace face-to-face interaction, real-time rendering will bring it one step closer to organic conversation.