Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Thx 4 nt txtng

They would rather text than talk. By they, of course I mean Earbaby and her kind. No matter what the needs are, whether urgent, (I need to be picked up at 2:30 at school) or nonurgent (Can I have a Starbucks, please?) I never hear her voice.

We recently had a conversation about a missing homework assignment that she had to have faxed to me, have me type it up and email it to her teacher by 5 p.m. But she didn't tell me about it, she texted me in that ridiculous shorthand of texting, which is unnecessary, because her phone at the time (more about that later) had a full keypad. She didn't have to patiently tap out the letters from a regular phone the way I do. (And of course, it always takes me longer to text because I insist on using full words and sentences with their proper spelling. I'm a copy editor, I always think someone else is watching and waiting to point out my mistakes.)

When EB sent me the first panicked message, starting with "U R going to kill me," I played along, texting her back and forth to figure out the problem. After the third round, I just punched in her number. "What is it you need?" I asked. I then arranged to have her paper faxed to me, so her friend's mom's friend (another long story for later) didn't have to type and send in two papers. Her friend had also forgotten this assignment due by 5 p.m. on a Friday afternoon. I thought I had a few leisurely hours by myself since EB and her friend were going to see The Hunger Games and I didn't have anything to do until I headed to work. Think again.

Anyway, texting is the way tweens, teens and some of us who are old enough to know better communicate. I understand texting someone during working hours when they might not be in a position to talk, for example during a meeting. But long conversations and news really require a voice. Even if the subject is uncomfortable.

Texting while driving is illegal (finally) here in our state. In some parts of the area, talking while driving is also against the law. I'm OK with that too. Even though I do talk on the phone while driving, I actually have started to avoid it as much as possible, answering my phone, but not starting a call while on the road. When I can. But texting while driving is just stupid. And because people who text you aren't aware that you're driving, you'll receive a text, then another, and another, because they don't understand that you can't text them back BECAUSE YOU'RE DRIVING, and besides, why don't they just use that phone for what it's originally made for?

I actually had a long back and forth with a wrong number who insisted on texting me and asking why I was suddenly getting back in touch. After trying several times to tell him he had a wrong number, including calling him and having him text me "why are you calling?" he finally called so I could tell him he had the wrong number and please stop texting me. He apologized profusely. I refrained from telling him he was a moron.

When I ask EB why she doesn't just call rather than text, she answers that texting is fun. She forgets to add that it's also ridiculous, mind-numbing, and sometimes just plain stupid. Not to mention expensive, at least until we all break down and buy unlimited plans because our kids, who don't pay for their cell phones, waste money on texts that simply say LOL or K.

EB has had arguments with (ex-)friends via texts. "Now she's saying," she'll tell me, and go on to read the offending script, and then text her back with her own angry words. This can go on ad infinitum, until I offer to block the offender's number. The blocking of the number, coup de grace, lets her have the final word. Which is what they all really want.

But fighting via text is wimpy and a bit cowardly. Even by phone you're not facing the person, although it is real time and you are talking. Texting is a way of saying what you don't have the nerve to say to someone's face and teens and tweens (I think particularly girls) are passive-aggressive that way. But it also leaves a permanent record in the game of she said/she said.

Did I mention that it's expensive and stupid? It takes much longer for me to find a place at a stoplight (let's face it, I'm always in my car) to read a text, than to unfold the phone and answer it. It's easier to hear "can I get a Starbucks?" and get the order squared away than to read Cn I gt a *$ and then go back and forth on what the order will be. How texting is more fun escapes me. A 12-second call becomes a 12-minute one-handed typefest. Between stoplights. Did I mention yet I hate texting?

EB's $100 phone from last year gave out. She didn't drop it, or get it wet, or otherwise physically destroy it. But her precious full keypad suddenly stopped working. With the keypad gone, she had to go to the touchscreen to text. Oh, horrors! Then other parts started going. So two days after the warranty expired, I finally had the chance to talk to the people and harangue them into sending a reconditioned smart phone. Now she couldn't get the kind that she had, that model isn't available anymore, and she didn't want a brand-new phone that would also have been free, but she took the reconditioned phone that was new enough because it had more bells and whistles. And cost more for the now not-unlimited data plan (which I found out three weeks later when she had reached her limit after being on Facebook for almost 72 hours straight). And although it was reconditioned, it was new enough that the regular stores didn't have the case yet. So a trip to the phone store and $35 later, she had a new (for her) phone.

And now she could get Facebook and music and texting, and downloads and all the stuff she could get with her nonsmart phone, for much more money. See how that works?

The dirty little secret, which is dirty, but not a secret, is that nonsmart phones do almost everything that the smart phones do. Mine can't program my DirecTV, because that's incompatible with my nonsmart model. EB's can, but we couldn't figure out how to do it amid all the crap. I also can get Facebook, and texting, and web browsing on my phone. For much less money. The only thing smart about the phones are the companies that charge you more for something you can get for much less. What's nonsmart? Smart phone buyers.

So here we are, another problem of the 21st century. How to talk to your kids without them reverting to texting, or Facebooking their every movement.

When EB was three, I taught her how to use the phone (a landline! And yes, I'll always have one). She learned how to dial 911 in case of emergency and how to tell her address and phone number and her parents' names. I told her how to tell a mommy if she got lost, because another mommy would help her get found. I had the old bag phone you plug into a car lighter and my husband convinced me to get my first cell phone. I used to never turn it on unless I needed to use it. As EB got older and actually was away from me for hours at a time I turned my phone on.

Now, if I run out to the store, or go to walk the dog and forget my phone, I worry. What if I can't be reached for a whole hour? Of course, sometimes I forget where I put my phone, or leave it in the charger, or under the car seat where it was dropped the day before and so far the world hasn't come to an end without my being notified first.

We've decided we always have to be connected. I took a walk on the beach this morning and didn't have anything other than my MP3 player. I had no ID, no cell phone, not even a key to denote I was staying somewhere along the path. Should I have passed out, had a sudden stroke, been eaten by a landshark (hey I remember those old SNL skits), I would have been among the suddenly missing. And yet, I chanced it.

I went disconnected for 1 hour and 10 minutes. No one called or texted Whr R U? since I told my husband I was going for a walk on the beach. I was wearing bright colors and have long dreadlocks. I'm not one who blends into a crowd.

EB has been warned that her constant connection is going to be severely curtailed. The walking while texting has brought a new genre of YouTube videos showing people falling because they weren't paying attention. Did I say texting is stupid?

 Texting is addictive, yet I don't know why. Smiley faces and LOLs don't replace hearing the voice, and yet kids text people they wouldn't bother talking to on the phone, or even on the street. It's like Facebook, the impersonal and personal meet and form an uncomfortable bond. Be careful what you post, Facebook users are warned. Be careful what you text also. And for goodness sake, get your head up and watch where you're going.

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