In recent months I’ve been using the text message function on my cell phone much more frequently. (Or as many text message users would type instead: “n rcnt mnths i b txtin alot.”)
I realize text messaging has been around for quite a while now, but I’ve always been more comfortable using email, where I can actually type on a real keyboard using all ten of my fingers. This allows me to include proper grammar and punctuation without too much difficulty — other than the difficulty of me not knowing proper grammar and punctuation in the first place, which they didn’t really emphasize too much in the engineering classes I took in college.
Anyway, I’ve discovered that a lot of younger people don’t check their email accounts very often. By the way, at this point I define “younger people” as anyone under age 50. Often times when I send an email, the other person doesn’t get the message for hours, or even days. However, virtually all of these younger people have had their cell phones surgically attached to their hands, so when someone sends them a text message, they read it right away.
Until that time in the near future when the Apple Corporation, in a joint venture with the federal government, starts installing microchips into our skulls, which will allow us to send messages telepathically, the quickest way to communicate with someone is to send a text message. You might think that simply phoning the other person and speaking to them would be the quickest method, but you know these young people: their verbal skills are lacking — the result of growing up in the computer age. Many of them don’t answer phone calls; they prefer to communicate via text messages.
But there are a few very annoying aspects of text messaging. First, the keyboard on a cell phone is ridiculously small. Each key is about the size of a gnat’s kneecap. My thumb can easily press six different letters simultaneously. So, for example, when I try to type a “D,” it often appears as either an “E,” “R,” “S,” “F,” or “X.” As you might expect, when the letter you want to type only occurs one-sixth of the time, your message loses a little clarity.
By far the worst aspect of text messages are the abbreviations commonly used, because the typing is so tedious. Any letter or number that sounds like a word is substituted for that word. Here is a typical message: “r u comin 2 c me 2nite?” (Translation: “Are you coming to see me tonight?”)
I can’t bring myself to communicate in that fashion, so I end up typing out the full message, using entire words and complete punctuation (from the engineer’s version of “Strunk & White”). The result is that it takes me forever to complete a message and send it. Instead of typing out a text message, sometimes I think it would be quicker if I jumped in my car, drove halfway across the state, walked into an office building, took the elevator to the seventh floor, chit-chatted with the receptionist for five minutes, walked to a particular cubicle, poked my head in and said, “I’ll meet you for lunch tomorrow at noon at Panera’s on the Berlin Turnpike, OK?”
With text messaging, the only thing smaller than the phone keyboard is the actual text itself as it appears on the phone’s screen. Trying to read text messages is ruining my eyesight, so in a very short time I will have a great excuse for refusing to engage in text messaging anymore. I just hope by then Apple has those cranial microchips ready to go.