Around the bend: Texting pushes my buttons; just call

I hate to sound like an old square, but I have to say it: I just don’t get this whole texting thing. What’s wrong with a phone call?

I admit a text message is more appropriate than a phone call in certain situations, like when it’s too loud to talk, or when you’re being held hostage by crazed gunmen and need to keep it down. But most of the time, I just don’t see the point.

Then again, I’m barely up to speed on cell phones. Just calling them “cell phones,” in fact, shows how behind the times I am. Nowadays, they’re known simply as “phones.” The vintage contraption that is tethered to a wall jack is now called a “land line,” and hip people don’t have one.

I only use my cell phone when it’s absolutely necessary. I don’t get why people chat on theirs just to pass the time when they should be focusing on more important things, such as not T-boning my car while running a red light.

So I really can’t understand people who spend the day texting, thumbs cocked, juggling multiple “conversations,” only half-engaged in their real-life personal interactions.

I know: I sound like an old square.

I’ve heard people, most of them young, talking openly about racking up three, four or even five thousand texts in a month. Really. Other texters respond to such announcements with awe and a bit of envy. Non-texters like me register horror and bafflement. I can’t think of anything I do five thousand times a month, except maybe blink. How does a person find the time?

“It’s no big deal,” the expert texters say. “You just —” and here they pause briefly to check their phone, do their thumb thing and then look up at you blankly, momentarily forgetting who you are.

“Oh, right,” they say, suddenly remembering. “That 5,000 includes both incoming and outgoing texts and most of them are really short.”

Well, they’d have to be. If you’re going to squeeze five thousand texts into an average month — that’s about 167 a day — you’d have to keep them as brief as possible to avoid dying of sleep deprivation or getting beaten up by friends who are sick of looking at the top of your head while you’re out to dinner with them.

For efficiency, texters skip punctuation and capitalization and abbreviate everything. “Seriously” is “srsly.” “I don’t know” is “idk.” Even abbreviations get abbreviated, so “OK” is, in text speak, “k.” No joke. In another generation teenagers will be abbreviating “k” to individual pixels.

Kids use their cell phones for everything these days, from taking pictures to surfing the Web. They don’t, however, use them to make phone calls, a task they consider hopelessly outdated, like mailing handwritten letters or reading books.

Thus, many parents have had to take up texting just to make sure their children are still alive. Show me someone over 40 packing a cell phone with a full keyboard and I’ll show you a parent with high school- or college-age children.

I rarely send texts, and when I do, they’re totally uncool. Last week, I managed to spell out an empathetic response to my stepson: “I wholeheartedly agree with your point of view, having experienced the same situation myself on numerous occasions.” It took me over an hour, but that’s partly because my battery died mid-sentence.

He later explained I could have conveyed the same sentiment with just two letters, “sh,” for “same here.”

Oh.

I balk at the thought of reducing a complete and nuanced concept to less than a word. Is culture dead? But texting a full sentence on a regular keypad takes me so long I generally find it faster to drive to the intended recipient’s house and tell them in person.

Sadly, I feel I need to embrace texting if I’m going to be able to communicate at all with the younger generation.

The other day a co-worker of mine mentioned attending a varsity basketball game and seeing an entire crowd of teenagers in the bleachers, heads down, thumbs a-blur, completely oblivious to the action on the court.

“That’s just not right,” she said. I nodded and said, “srsly.”

I suppose there is such a thing as trying too hard.


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Addison County Independent

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Middlebury, VT 05753

Phone: 802.388.4944
Fax: 802.388.3100