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i’d like to write a text on text

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Just last week, or maybe the week before, I sent my first text message. I can’t remember what it said, I only know that I was texting for the sake of texting. You know, just to see what it’s like. (The first one’s free, kid.) It does nothing for me, really. True, I am interested in the way instant messaging and texting are creating a new language, or maybe that language is actually being established now. I think it was created years ago. I can remember the first time I saw someone write ‘lol.’ Actually, the person—who called himself Sneaky Pete—wrote ‘rotflmao.’ And I, being the chat room newbie, asked what it meant. Then I got a quick lesson in chat room speak. At first I resisted using the abbreviations. It just seemed silly. But then I found the benefits of using things like ‘brb’ (I spent a lot of my time in chat rooms in those days, and sometimes I had to eat or pee) and btw (honestly, I just like the way it looks) and I slowly developed a new accent.

It’s still a pretty bad accent. I’m not ashamed to admit that. More than speaking in this accent, I really enjoy listening to (watching) others use this new language. Right now I want to do some research and figure out what sorts of words I should be using here to better identify what I’m talking about. Not too many years ago, I thought I wanted to get a master’s in linguistics. I took a great literacy class in grad school and thought then that it would be cool to study Ebonics. But then I realized that there were at least 37 other grad students in the country at that moment who were writing their theses on Snoop Dog, and the idea sort of fell away from me. It’s situations like this that make me start thinking about going back to school again, or at least spending some time reading Wikipedia.

Let me tell you at least three stories, intertwined.

The other night, Maiana, a twelve year old girl I know quite well, sent me a text message that read ‘im depressed.’ And that was it. Two words that adults normally used. Of course, I ignored it for several reasons:

1) Why would a 12 year old be depressed? No more ice cream? Can’t have a sleepover? Too much  homework?

2) It was a text message. A text message that said ‘im depressed.’ How do you respond to something like that via text? Why not call? 

3) It was a text message. Text messages don’t require responses.

Or do they?

Yesterday I went to a three and a half hour seminar on working with people from different generations. You know, like what to do when an old person you’re working with doesn’t like it when you don’t remove your earbuds when you’re talking to him. Or what to do when a baby boomer gets too demanding and asks you to work over the weekend. Or what to do when a gen xer plops herself down in your office, unannounced, and wants to ‘yak about the annual reports for a sec.’

Truly, it was a waste of my time. I wish I’d had my cell phone with me so that I could have texted Maiana and asked what’s up. But I couldn’t text her anyway, because her mom took her cell phone away on Sunday as a result of a play date text-a-thon gone wrong. (It’s a long story that involves three 12 year olds, at least two camera phones and a whole lot of screaming and crying. It also involves me, a 35 year old who all of the above mentioned 12 year olds refer to as ‘a very slow texter.’ Luckily)

So there I was, in the seminar, without my laptop or any other mode of communication to anyone outside the room. It was just me and a bunch of babble that I could have come up with on my own. I couldn’t even doodle, because they kept making us do group work and silly role-playing exercises. So I listened as much as I could and I learned a bit about some of the reasons older generations act like they do and why younger generations act like they do and why middle aged generations act like they do. Mostly I just learned that sometimes it’s hard to know what other people are thinking. Really, though, I didn’t even learn that. I already knew it.

We talked about the youngest generation–Generation Y, aka the Millennials. And I thought about Maiana and the text she’d sent me the night before. I thought about sharing it with the class but I was multi-tasking in my mind, making to-do lists and puzzling through my budget and trying to remember if my dog pooped before I left for work. At some point the class discussed the fact that Gen Yers are most inclined to multi-task and I wondered what else Maiana was doing when she sent me that message and I fell into thought about how awful it is to be 12 and how horrible girls are to one another and how I didn’t have a cell phone when I was 12, how I didn’t even know what cell phones were, wouldn’t know for several years and really would much prefer to read Teen Beat and then clip out the photos of cute guys and cell them to girls in my school who would then hang the pictures in their lockers. I had a picture of Chicken Boy in my locker. I had other pictures from other Weekly World News stories in my locker, too.

There was a time I wanted to write for the Weekly World News. I sent them a query letter a ferw years ago, but got no reply.

But I digress.

I wanted to tell you all of this so that you would in some way begin to understand why I don’t like text messaging. Aside from the fact that I think it’s pointless (pick up the phone, or send an email, people!), I also am quite slow at it. When you are texting, you have only so much room to get your point across. In fact, you have to be pretty concise, I’ve learned. You have to use your characters sparingly, and–as I see it, anyway–the goal is to write a message as fast as you can that relays no more than two facts at a time. preferably just one fact. As in ‘hes hot,’ or ‘im depressed,’ or ‘i wrote sumthin 2day.’

In the time it took me to write this, I might have been able to write about five text messages to you. And you’d know far less than you do now

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Author: Kim Sharp

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