Texting is a phenomenon that continues to fascinate me. On a daily basis I observe people with their little keypads furiously typing messages one would think were essential to the continuation of our species. Generally, thumbs are used while the senders squint at the miniscule letters on those Barbie and Ken doll-sized keys and seem to derive some profound satisfaction at finally pushing the send button.
Even some of my older friends (ones over fifty) are hooked on texting. For some it’s the only means to regular communication with their children, who so often these days have no skills for conversation. For others, it gives a chance to say something (anything) while away from the computer when they aren’t in the mood actually to chat on a cellphone. The annoying part for me is that when I’m with friends, the texting bell, whistle, buzz, or other signal on someone’s device goes off during conversation or a visit. I find it appalling that people are slaves to those signals and often stop whatever they’re doing to find out what message has been sent. I have not yet been witness to any message more earth-shattering than “Hey, dude! What’s up?” The whole dynamic of texting has somewhat replaced the one for cellphones, my other nemesis. Both modes of communication are surrogates for real communication among human beings and have at least partly obliterated social skills as we know them (used to know them).
The people who pretend to whine about the interruptions texting and cellphone calls present, are the same folks whose faces light up at being contacted, for any reason at all, no matter where. I don’t understand the necessity to be shackled to a cellphone or texting device every minute of the day. Does it provide a false sense of security, the illusion that we cannot be connected to others without this technology? Popularity is sometimes measured among high school students by how many text messages they receive on an hourly basis. Getting a text message during a meeting with friends that reads, “Hey! What ya doin’? I’m at Aldi in frozen foods” is for most people not important news, but it is a means of control that some find enticing, either for the fantasy that they are essential to the lives of other “texters”, or that they appear to be sought after in some way while in the company of other friends, who must tolerate such rudeness with equanimity just because it has become so very common.
Making oneself constantly available by cellphone and texting smacks of a kind of shallowness that frightens as well as irritates me. People who are on cellphones or texting devices a good deal of the time are the same people who are oblivious to what’s going on around them. We have all seen them in restaurants with family or friends, completely disengaged from those around them by that little phone or text keyboard. Those who use either device while driving are beneath contempt, because they are forever endangering the lives of other drivers and pedestrians. Of course, the cellphone and texting devices will eventually be replaced by other inventions that will make us believe that we human beings are more “connected” than ever, while the irony of separation continues to grow at an astronomical rate as communication becomes more and more superficial, and human beings feel increasingly alone. JB