While texting was technically invented in the early nineties, it only started to gain widespread popularity in the last six years (or so). For five out of those six years, I was perched high atop my soapbox, proclaiming that texting would be the death of all meaningful human interaction. If someone had handed me a megaphone, I would have shouted, “Why don’t you people ever talk to each other anymore?!”
As a writer, I also saw texting as a personal affront to the written word. Grammar, spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure were all scrapped in favor of the English language’s newborn bastardized son – the short message service (SMS), also called text speak; a language full of acronyms, abbreviations, and numerical inserts. So, it seemed texting was not only replacing our meaningful face-to-face interactions and phone calls, it was also responsible for creating an entire generation of crappy writers.
When my thirteen-year old daughter wrote “u” instead of “you” in a rough draft essay for her English class I nearly had a brain aneurism. I knew she was only using the shortened version of the word because it was a rough draft her teacher would never see, but I still lectured her (ad nauseam) about the importance of spelling and grammar, and about how crucial it was for her to differentiate between her schoolwork and the texts she sends her friends.
Don’t roll your eyes at me. I stop being a self-righteous asshole in just a sec….
On the rare occasion I texted someone, I stubbornly dug my heels in and refused to use text speak, despite the fact that it took me ten times longer to text someone using proper English on my dinosaur of a flip-phone (sans keyboard). Probably would have been quicker to communicate via homing pigeon. But I had my principles, no matter how asinine or antiquated.
I was teased by friends and family about my novel-length texts (complete with proper capitalization and punctuation), and frequently asked, “What are you writing, a book?” Sadly, no. It seems I’m as easily distracted writing a real book as you seem to be reading my text-books (text-books…. get it? Hahaha).
*Side note: if you happen to be a book agent, believe me when I say that I will buy out my pharmacy’s entire supply of Ritalin and start popping them like tic-tacs if it means landing a book deal. Okay, moving on….
But then about a year ago my husband and I decided to get our (then) twelve-year old daughter, Meghan, her first cell phone. And at the same time, I decided it was time for me to upgrade my cellasaurus. I knew I wanted a touch screen and keyboard, but I wasn’t anywhere near ready to take on the iPhone. The salesman took one look at the flip-phone in my hand and suggested I buy the “Pantech Ease” – a phone clearly designed for the technologically challenged. I didn’t know whether to be insulted or relieved.
Before taking two steps outside of the Verizon store, my daughter had already sent me several text messages. As we walked through the mall, I tried not to run into a wall or another shopper while my clumsy thumbs attempted to keep pace with her rapid-fire text messages. She only had the phone for five minutes and she was already fluent in text-speak, and could move her thumbs across that tiny keyboard with unnatural speed and agility.
During the course of the next week, Meghan sent me hundreds of text messages – most of them while we were within speaking distance (curse you, unlimited text plan!) I was reluctantly transformed from a mom who sent less than ten texts during the course of a week, into a piss poor imitation of a teenage textaholic.
As the month wore on, I could feel my resolve starting to weaken; slowly acronyms and numerical inserts began to rear their ugly heads. Meghan forced me to end my war on text speak, and brought me over to the dark side – the land where spelling and grammar go to die. I rationalized that it was better to raise the white flag and surrender, than to have both my thumbs fall off.
Meghan schooled me in acronyms, and let out an exasperated sigh whenever I didn’t know what one meant. She once sent me a text that read, “DTB. TTYL.” Umm…. what? I stared at the screen totally dumbfounded. Without my acronym decoder ring, I had no idea what it meant, so I used the next best thing – Google. Google told me that she was trying to say, “Don’t text back. Talk to you later.” It was my turn to let out an exasperated sigh, and wonder why the hell two English-speaking people needed a translator.
Just so you don’t run into the same problem, I’m posting this link. If you have a teenager, I suggest you bookmark it….
I still hated all the short-cuts, but at least I understood the necessity for them. What I couldn’t understand was why teenagers made shorter words longer or misspelled them for no reason. Words like “hey” became “heyyyyyy”, and “ok” became “kk”. It was obviously no longer a time saver, so what was the reason?
Meghan gave me a blank stare when I asked her, so I once again turned to Google for the answers. After checking out various websites on texting, it seemed the added letters or purposeful misspelling indicated emphasis, coolness, and/or drunkenness. So my daughter was either trying to make a point, fit in with her peers, or she was ready for the Betty Ford clinic. Awesome.
Thankfully, since last year Meghan has filled up her cell phone address book with numerous friends and family members, and no longer relies on me as her primary texting buddy. My thumbs are eternally grateful.