I remember the first cell phone commercial that promoted the idea of texting. I had the same reaction to that commercial that I had to the first Apple ad in the 70's promoting personal computers to be used at home. That idea will never fly.
Good thing no one consults me for the technological future.
To me, texting equalled a retreat into darkness. Telephones made people not present, present, through the ease of talking, voice, intonation and all that stuff that makes it feel like you have the person right with you. The only thing missing were visuals, which the Jetsons and Bell telephone assured us were just around the corner.
So what happened to the video phone?
It tumbled into outer "failed idea" darkness and instead, text messaging crawled from the murky depths... the next link in technological evolution.
But the middle aged among us all ask: why would someone go to the trouble of typing on tiny keys (with inscrutable letters), navigating the triple alphabet per button to convey what could be expressed in ten seconds directly, without waiting for a reply?
Apparently the answer to that question is: safe distance.
When we attended Johannah's orientation this last week, the leaders explained that this generation of freshmen is less confrontational than any they can remember. These kids avoid conflict and refuse to express what they need/want in person, directly, eye-to-eye. They've been raised in an era of diversity and tolerance and know that people with character ought not to judge. They know this not as a Sunday school lesson, but as the essential social rule that they must obey, or at least appear to obey.
Instant Messaging (first) and texting after it led to a way to communicate hard things: gossip, insults, praise, flirting, I love you, racism, homophobia, want to go out? and more. You could appear to be courteous, friendly, "not interested" and tolerant in person, but unleash that other side of self through typing. Somehow the dark side of each person's soul had an outlet... an accepted one that didn't tarnish your public reputation.
Addtionally, flirting became a much lower risk endeavor. Saving face, much easier.
Texting also led to communicating with lots of people at once. No more were you forced to keep going with one person on the other end of the phone, enduring the awkward silence, deciphering what that long pause meant. If the IM conversation with one person peetered out, you had four more cooking along to replace it. If the texter suddenly had to climb into that orthodontist's chair, three more conversations were still demanding your attention.
The OSU orientation leaders shared a story of an RA meeting with two disgruntled dorm mates who sat directly across from each other in the same room texting angry messages over roommate problems until the RA shouted: Stop! and required them to put down their phones and learn how to communicate what was bugging them in words, eye-to-eye. That's where it's gone. No one wants to appear angry in person. So they resort to texting instead.
There are rules in texting. When I asked Johannah to call me and closed with a period, she thought I was angry. I thought I was using proper punctuation. According to Johannah, periods mean you're bugged.
A greeting without an exclamation point means that you're in a blue mood.
Typing with misspellings has fallen into disrepute among upperclassmen in high school and college students. Abbreviations like "u r" and "LOL" are shunned because they're so junior high. These "near adults" pride themselves on spelling properly (and all the English teachers cheered!).
College kids will not answer their phones even when they hear them ring and have nothing else to do, but will text you back in the middle of class, a date, during a movie or while driving(!).
And those camera phones! Johannah sends me photos when she shops for clothes to get my advice. Noah sends me photos of things that make him laugh. I send photos of the kids to Noah because he lives away.
I'm about the slowest text-er to ever inhabit a mother's body. But I'm committed. The best thing about texting that I can see is that it's instant and brief. If I need that moment-by-moment touch but haven't got time for a long conversation, texting fills the bill.
Seems the video phone will never emerge.
Texting and camera phones. If you invested way back when, I'll bet your rich. Next time you need technological foresight, ask me what I think, and do the opposite.