April 10th, 2008

IDK, My BFF Jill

I’m sure most of you have seen this:

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.

10 Comments on “IDK, My BFF Jill”

  1. Meags says:

    I love texting but I married a Scrooge and we pay per text because he says that's "cheaper", which means I can't text indiscriminately in order to avoid being yelled at. But it's so convenient to be somewhere that you can't necessarily take a phone call but want to hear from people anyways!

  2. Steven says:

    You haven't abused text messaging until you have been called a "text ho" by the Verizon customer service rep.

  3. The Rock Star says:

    Interesting posting. I still think actually talking to the person is better, but I can see how a text message to someone like you is not "blowing off" a person.

    I enjoy those commercials, by the way!

    Side-note: I am not a texter, and and I do not have a texting plan. If you are reading this and think you should text me, DO NOT DO IT!

  4. M. Kate says:

    This is exactly why everyone should be "in." Then no one has to be worried about plan limits…since I was drug kicking and screaming into the world of texting I can't seem to find my way back out. Too many folks are accustomed to being able to text me and it has it's place and benefit. Agreed.

  5. JClark says:

    Great post, and I love those commercials. The only problem I have with texting is the way a few of my friends seem to have become completely enslaved to it.

    For example, there are two people I hang out with the most, Tim and Chris. Tim is a texting fiend, to the point that while Chris and I are doing whatever it is we got together to do, Tim invariably has his head down, texting someone every thirty seconds or so. Eventually, Chris and I had enough of it and we literally berated and badgered Tim into not texting while we're hanging out. So now that phone sits in his pocket and beeps at him every minute or so because someone or other just has to tell him, right this instant, all about how bored they are with whatever they're doing, or really,desperately, needs to shoot him some random movie quote.

    Also, the light put off by cell phone screens is piercing and maddening, so it is NOT OK to text in a movie theater. I don't care if it's silent. Is it OK to swing a flashlight around in a movie theater? No? Then it's not OK to use a device with a lighted screen either (have you ever noticed that a cell phone makes for a decent flashlight in a pinch? They're that bright). I've just about gotten into fist fights with people because I was sick of their darn phone stabbing me in the eye every two minutes.

    I do see the value in texting, really. I just seems that several people I know would rather communicate inanities through a two inch screen and a ten button keypad to people they see every day but who are currently elsewhere, than to actually converse and spend time with the people who are in the room with them. It strikes me as a form of postmodern separation anxiety, this obsessive need to be connected with everyone they know at all times, even if their actual "right here right now" experiences suffer.

    I don't mean to rain on anyone's parade, but my experiences with texting have almost always been of this sort. It's unrealistic and wrongheaded to say that it should go away, but I would like it if some people would at least learn when it is acceptable and when it is not, and of course when enough is enough.

  6. Wahooty says:

    Hmm…I seem to remember once having to increase MY texting plan due solely to unmitigated Mup-texting…luckily I have since weaned myself of the habit. Txt msg-free since 2006!

  7. Sizzledowski says:

    Hmm, I guess I should've texted you about my car issues and my after school meeting. :)

  8. Daizie Girl says:

    I'm a fan of texting! However, as a teacher, it is alarming when students turn papers in using the texting jargon instead of proper grammar.

  9. Smoothie King says:

    Daizie, I would ask if you are joking but, sadly, I know you are not!

  10. Angela says:

    I absolutely hate those commercials. And in the first one, as soon as my 10 year old daughter mouthed off to me like that, I would have slapped the wahooey out of her.

    I mean, really. I think that's my biggest pet peeve with that commercial. The mom just let's her get away with snotty attitude.

    I'm going to be a horribly cruel parent one day.

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