This column is scheduled to run in the Thursday, February 28 issue of the Alameda Sun:
My twins turned 13 recently. I gave them each what I thought was a cool coming-of-age present: a cell phone with unlimited text messaging plan. They thanked me enthusiastically for ending their misery; until this point, they were the only 13 year olds in the world without a cell phone. (I know that’s not true, but the drama of their teenage years has hit our home in full force.)
Now they spend their nights, not talking on the phone as I did when I was their age, but responding to the buzz of their cell phones bursting with text messages (because I have banned the blippy alert sound of when the message hits). Back and forth, back and forth, they chat with their friends. They passed right by IM (Instant Messaging) on the computer to instant texting through their phones. My Dad gave my four brothers and sisters and I a separate “teenage phone” back in the 1970s. I have accommodated the latest trends for my kids with cell phones.
Because of my professional career in the high tech industry, I am familiar with most technologies and can even use some. So, I can text. And often do, even though the majority of people I communicate with are my age and don’t text at all. It’s all fine, I get it—the convenience, the novelty. I’ll admit that sometimes it’s just much easier to send a quick text rather than place a call. What I cannot get past is the language of texting. Because of my career as a writer, I hit a wall when it comes to the quicker, easier shortened form of English in the SMS (Short Message Service) dialect. My kids have taken to using it as easily as if they were born into it.
It didn’t just start with their getting cell phones. One of them once sent me an email, replacing “you” with “u” and “for” with the number 4, and then, to contribute to my madness, signed off with “thnx.” When I told her that I would ground her for life if she ever did it again, that habit quickly stopped.
But now I realize I am just about the only person who tries to text in complete English sentences. I don’t shorten anything. It takes me twice as long to write and send a text message as it does anyone else in the world.
My children have adapted. One just calls or sends selected messages; the other forges ahead, trying to convince me that this is a great way to communicate. She throws in acronyms every chance she gets. (And I just keep writing “What?” back.) I suppose it’s what happens with a living language and the reason we don’t say “thou” anymore (or speak in Old English or Latin, for that matter). Eventually, we may all have to master SMS.
Certainly, I don’t want to be part of the older generation who cannot accept the changes that advances in technology bring. I thought I could influence their thinking, skewing it a bit towards mine. BWDIK?