I’m normally one for keeping a clean text messaging inbox – once I read it, it’s gone. There’s a lot of reasons for it, but one is that I can’t create folders on my phone for some stupid reason, so I don’t have a good way to store them. So normally when I go to my inbox, it’s got the one or two messages I haven’t read yet, or else it’s empty.
A while back, though, I got a text message from a friend of mine that I’ve kept in the inbox ever since. It was meant as some tongue-in-cheek advice, but, funnily enough, it struck me in its simplicity:
“Don’t screw it up!”
I think right there in that little sentence, you get every self-help book ever boiled down into one manageable phrase. The idea of having all this good stuff around and in your life is something easily forgotten and sometimes we get anxious about all of it. To that, my friend says, “Don’t screw it up!”
A new friendship just getting off the ground? “Don’t screw it up!”
A new pet? “Don’t screw it up!”
A new job? “Don’t screw it up!”
Remodeling your home? “Don’t screw it up!”
Giving a speech in front of a convention? “Don’t screw it up!”
Redoing the effects in films loved by milions? “Don’t screw it up!” (Sorry we didn’t get this to George Lucas sooner, folks)
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow with a sonic screwdriver? “Don’t screw it up!” (Dr. Who only)
Really, most situations in life: “Don’t screw it up!”
There’s a laid-back quality to the advice that appeals to me – rather than working hard at making something right, work at not making something wrong.
I’m sure this won’t appeal to anyone else like it has appealed to me, but I thought I’d share it for that .001% out there that thinks like me.
Leaving a comment on this entry? “Don’t screw it up!”
While I was looking for that one, I found this one, the sequel:
I enjoy these for a couple of reasons, but the biggest one being the texting shorthand, this all-encompassing form of communication that all teenagers use all the time. The “big” news networks frequently trot out a list of abbreviations that “all the kids are using,” and I know I’m not the only one that looks at the lists and says, “Nobody in the history of texting and IM has ever used that one!” It’s like the kid they got to give them the inside scoop was playing games on them and just making stuff up.
In 40 years I’ll be like the grandma in that second clip, texting my buddies down the hall at the nursing home instead of taking the trouble to get my walker and risk breaking my hip by going down the hall to actually see them. I text enough that I recently had to up my data plan for my phone, as I was going to go over the 1500 I was allotted monthly. Somewhat tellingly, at the same I was doing that, I also lowered my voice plan, as I wasn’t getting anywhere near the limit on that one. I did, in fact, halve my voice plan, and it’s still more minutes than I’ve been using on average.
It should be noted that I don’t just use texting to avoid talking to people – it’s also a useful tool for scheduling and reminding, and its big brother, multimedia messaging, is a handy way to document events as they happen by letting me send pictures to Flickr, other people, or my email account.
There’s a few reasons I like sending and receiving texts on my cell phone. First, it’s convenient. I pretty much always have my cell phone nearby, whereas I don’t necessarily have a computer or a pen and paper handy. When the thought crosses my mind that I need to do something when I get home, I know from historical events that I will most likely forget it by the time I get home. If I text a reminder from my phone to my email, I’ll remember to do it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten home from being out, saw that I had an email waiting, and said to myself, “I wonder who it’s from?” before opening it to find that I had, indeed, forgotten what it was I needed to do.
Second, it’s unobtrusive. You’ve been in a store, a library, a theater, or maybe even church when someone’s on their cell phone yapping away – we’ve all been there, and most of us have even been the person in question. It happens. Someone conversing via text isn’t forcing you to be a part of their conversations about grocery lists, kids sports schedules, or, worse, medical conditions. Assuming the person has their phone set to silent or vibrate (as opposed to, say, a Murloc), they’re not making any noise at all. And to the receiver, it’s like getting a voicemail without the hassle of having to dial in to hear the message – “Oh, Mark’s going to be late because his cat killed the UPS guy. He says we should start without him.”
Third – and this is what I like most about texting – is that it makes you consider what you’re saying carefully, at least it should. A well-crafted text message needs to consider there’s no room for non-verbals, so it needs to say what it means to say. I actually consider this a plus, by the way, as I think non-verbals sometimes get in the way of what I’m trying to say or understand. Further, text messages are limited. If I go over 160 characters, the message gets split into two messages. I have to choose my words carefully, and there have been many times I’ve edited a message to get it in under 160, turning my Dickensian tomes into Hemingway blurbs. It helps me consider more specific words that do in one what I had done in three or five, and I’m sure there are some of you that wish I’d learn that lesson for blogging, too.
The side effect to all that is that I am thinking about what I’m saying. There’s no “off the cuff” texting: you type what you mean to type (unless you’re using predictive texting and aren’t paying attention to the screen, that is!). For me, that means I’m considering what I’m texting before I text it, something I’m not as good at when I’m talking. I can’t count how many times I’ve typed something out only to erase and edit it before I send it.
Furthermore, texts you get from me are 99% readable English. I don’t use “u” for “you,” “l8r” for “later,” or “(=o=)” for “TIE Fighter.” I capitalize and use punctuation. I may occasionally use a “btw” or an “lol,” but those have almost passed into the vernacular at this point. I’m not the fastest texter, but I hope to be an accurate one. Getting a cell phone with a full QWERTY keypad has helped me a lot in that regard, and in a lot of ways I’m a better text-typer than an actual typer.
I know that texting cannot be a replacement for talking to someone, but it can be a good supplement to the relationship. I receive status updates on my phone throughout the day from Twitter and Facebook, and knowing what my friends are thinking throughout the day when I can’t be with them all the time helps me feel more connected to them.
So please know that if I’m texting you, it’s not me blowing you off, it’s me communicating, just like you might pick up the phone to ask someone how many bags of chips to bring to the party. I’ll still talk to you, and I’ll even meet you for lunch or Starbucks. Just don’t be surprised if I get a few texts while we’re there.