The sweet and spicy milkiness of my chai tea latte glided down my throat as I sat with a few fellow preschool moms at St. Louis Bread Co., celebrating the first day of school for our little three-year-olds (all of whom are either the youngest or the only, meaning we all had nearly four hours to ourselves…hence the celebration). Somehow the conversation turned to the topic of our completely archaic cell phones. My friend Kelly (what a great name!) said the man at her nail salon made fun of her old “block phone.” And I joked, though completely serious, that I can never figure out how to even CALL someone on my husband’s Blackberry. And I pretty much do not text because I hate having to press the “2” button three times just to get the letter “C”. At that moment, Kelly motioned her head to the table behind me and said, “Look at those two.”
I inconspicuously turned my head to see an elderly couple sitting across from each other, both with Blackberries, completely enthralled in texting. Yes, I said an ELDERLY couple. It was a bit amusing that these people who could be my grandparents were more up to date with their technology than a table full of thirty-somethings, but there was also something very disturbing about that picture to me. I think one of the ladies commented that it was “impressive,” but to tell the truth, I really just thought it was sad.
Here were two people of a generation that was brought up during a time of real human interaction, a time when correspondence was really quite an art form. But now we live in a time when even an elderly couple can not sit and enjoy each other’s company for long enough without “lol-ing” some text they received from Mildred concerning Betty’s outrageous behavior during the bridge game.
Are you getting the distinct feeling that I am not a fan of texting? Well, you would be right. For starters, I think it is threatening the future of our written language. The act of texting is so ingrained in younger generations that “text language” almost comes more naturally to them than the English language when putting something down on paper (…paper? What’s paper? You mean people still WRITE on that stuff? With a…what’s it called…a pen?). I saw firsthand how it affected my high school students’ composition skills when I was teaching. And that was over five years ago. It can only have gotten worse.
More than that, I think it can negatively affect social skills. Sure, the occasional text here and there is harmless. I do not think that my husband texting me as I shop at Schnucks to make sure to get ice cream is ruining our communication skills in our marriage. I can certainly see the conveniences. But for so many people it has become a primary mode of conversation and, well, that just can not be good. For a lot of reasons. Visions of Disney’s Wall-E come to mind: a world full of blubbery slugs sitting in front of video screens who are so disconnected they can not even look to the person next to them and have a conversation.
But perhaps the thing I hate most about texting is that while in some ways it forces us to disconnect with each other, it also gives us this false bravery to share WAY too much with each other. I’m talking about “sexting.” My friend Natalie was looking for advice the other day on just this very subject. She had been getting several text messages from a wrong number, and from the nature of the texts, this person obviously thought Natalie was someone she had a more “intimate” relationship with. (Though I’m wondering how well she knew this person she was texting…not well enough to know his correct phone number). Natalie had received some racy messages, topped off with a very suggestive photo. She was wondering how she should break the news that this girl was texting all this sensitive information to the wrong number. Apparently, Natalie wanted to be polite about it. But do you know what my advice to her was? Here was my response:
I would say, “You have the wrong number. Please stop sexting me. If you want your picture back, you can find it on the internet.” There needs to be an element of embarrassment for her…serves her right for sexting in the first place. That’s just dumb. Doesn’t she know how dumb sexting is, for this very reason? What is wrong with girls these days???? Maybe you should send along some recommendations for good feminist literature so she can read it and gain a little pride in herself. Now excuse me while I go say few prayers that my kids don’t have to go grow up in such an idiotic culture.
So that is how I feel about that.
Go ahead and call me a cantankerous old woman at the age of thirty-four. But do me a favor and tell me to my face…or at least call me on the phone. Just do not text me. It will cost me twenty cents.