I’m now guilty about breaking the unspoken rules of text etiquette—texting during a meeting, texting while driving, even texting during church. (Pastor, I’ve repented from this; I promise it wasn’t during prayer or your sermon, and it certainly wasn’t during communion. It only happened twice—once to let someone know that I was in church so they’d stop calling and the second time to let someone know which row I was sitting in.) It’s not that I make it a regular habit, but sometimes getting a message to someone simply can’t wait—although only a year or so ago, I didn’t even have text message capabilities on my mobile plan. Now, I can’t seem to get through a single day without sending at least one text—mostly in response to someone texting me.
In the midst of all of the text messaging hoopla, I’ve witnessed some of the most unusual behavior besides my own. I’ve seen my own daughter—and her friends—have entire text conversations during a six-hour drive from college. You’d think their fingers would be numb after all that keying. She’s had arguments with her boyfriend via text (she doesn’t know that I know this). I saw a pedestrian actually pause in the middle of the street to complete a text message. What about those contests to see who can text the fastest?
I have four sisters, and three of them only communicate via text. So when “dear old dad” asked if I’ve talked to one of my sisters, I used to say, “Yeah, we exchanged emails yesterday.” Now I usually say, “Yeah, I got a text from her the other day.” This of course, is not acceptable to him. My mother now sends what I consider unnecessary text messages, and my step-mother seems excited that she now knows how to text. My father still just seems disgusted by all of it. All three of my grandmothers have passed away, and none of them even had cell phones—they didn’t even have voicemail or caller ID—but I surely wonder sometimes what they would think of text messaging.
Texting has indeed become an epidemic. What used to be a way to communicate with someone we weren’t able to reach on the phone has now become a replacement for genuine, connected communication. Text messaging now gives people an escape; it creates a barrier and even an excuse not to talk. We used to write letters—handwritten, signed, sealed and delivered. Then we started writing less and calling each other on the phone—a landline, eventually replaced by a cell phone with free nights and weekends to allow all the talk time we needed. Then we went crazy with e-mailing. We got bored with standard e-mail and along came instant messaging (IM). We eventually started texting the same messages we used to send via email—Happy Birthday, Happy Mother’s Day, Merry Christmas … somehow a text greeting doesn’t have quite the same meaning as receiving a paper card in the mail or even an email greeting, but I do appreciate that someone is thinking of me on those special occasions.
I resisted it at first, and now I’m slowly getting sucked in. After several cell phone bills in a row with text overage charges and subsequent pleadings to my mobile service provider, I finally opted to increase the allotted number of messages—unlimited for my daughter’s line of course so she could continue the endless “conversing” with her friends. Texting has rapidly replaced talking, and although it’s quick, convenient and useful, I’m not sure where it’s taking us in terms of communication. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what the newest craze will be in what … another three to six months? A year? When you hear about the newest innovation, do me a favor, send me a text, okay? But whatever you do, don’t text about me behind my back. At least have the dignity to do it in front of my face!