Oct 28, 2008

From the Desk

by Jennifer Schmidt

It happens everyday. Letters combine, merge and mingle to form pseudo-words. Somehow meaning is found in “jk” and the prolific use of “u.” Messages are sent with rapid speed – green-check mark approved. With a glance at the phone, one anxiously hopes to find the words “NEW TXT MSG” greeting them. One can hardly select “View Now” fast enough.

I’m talking about a phenomenon that permeates all sectors of society. I know this because my parents recently got texting, and announced it with messages such as “Jen, got textng. Love dad.” Truly, parents were the last frontier for these 160-character wonders. They’re the obsession of our time. Years from now, when historians discuss the ground breaking events of the ’00 decade, texting will no doubt be noted as one of the defining trends for this generation.

I remember when texting first became available. My dad gave me a cell phone the week before I left for college, and though texting wasn’t in my plan, I tentatively sent an exploratory message into the wireless world. My friend never responded though. I found out weeks later that his phone couldn’t even receive text messages.

Fast-forward four years, and in the past 48 hours I’ve sent or received 200 messages. No worries though because my plan isunlimited for Verizon to Verizon customers, and offers me 500 texts to spend on everyone not lucky enough to be a part of the “Can you hear me now?” network.

Here’s some free text trivia just for reading – in a poll reported by Roanoke News 7 last week, 80 percent of those polled admitted to texting while going to the bathroom, 40 percent had text while attending a funeral and 60 percent had text from a wedding. What’s even more shocking is the news anchor’s blithe admission that his son had used 15,000 texts over the past month. He was laughing – maybe out of relief – as if 15,000 was an improvement. News flash: your son has a problem. And for the rest of us, let’s draw the line at funerals.

A couple thousand a month is manageable, but with 15,000 total, that youngster is averaging 488 texts a day. I would assume texting addictions cannot get worse than they are, but maybe we have yet to see their dark potential.

A 2007 Washington Post article reported teenagers spend almost four hours a day texting in the summer months, and almost half of those polled said that texting was their primary form of communication. At the expense of sounding preachy, I have to question -- what type of lasting impact will texting have on society? I often wonder how it has affected my own relationships.

Confrontation is just a bit easier if done through a text – especially when the message can expand to 300 characters. But with the ease of convenience, is it possible that we are losing the ability to interact honestly with one another?


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