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Hey guys, big news from the University of Oxford Press Blog today. Big news. The internet and cell phones have changed—possibly even revolutionized—the way kids keep in touch with one another. Instead of catching up with acquaintances, people just follow their away messages. (Note: I'm almost positive away messages have something to do with Instant Messaging, which is like a faster form of email, but I'm not 100%.) And sometimes people use their cell phones not to talk but to send text messages, a form of written communication sent through phones. Oh, and also this is rotting the very foundations of civilized society. More ground-breaking news after the jump.

Both IM and social networking sites also redefine what it means to keep in touch with friends. College students frequently read friends' away messages on IM to catch up on their activities, rather than picking up the phone or launching an IM conversation. Facebook has been described as "a way of maintaining a friendship without having to make any effort whatsoever," since you can see what your friends are up to simply by viewing their pages. In fact, Facebook will notify you when the birthdays of your online "Friends" roll around, so you can post a birthday greeting on their Facebook "Wall" (think of an electronic notice board). It's Happy Birthday without risk of personal involvement.

Recently I have been studying how university students in Sweden, the US, and Italy use their mobile phones. To understand why young people choose to send a text message (rather than make a voice call), I asked students to evaluate this possible explanation: "I want to make my message short, and talking takes too long."

Like most technologies, computers and mobile phones are mixed blessings. Internal combustion engines brought the convenience of automobiles, but they also pollute the planet. Mobile phones are invaluable for bridging distance, yet they magnify our ability to distance ourselves from others.

Control Freaks [OUPblog]