COMMENTARY: Ah, texting. Few things – save for the last presidential campaign and election, who the Browns should get to be their franchise quarterback, or how much money Taylor Swift made last year – spur emotions like typing on a miniature keyboard inside a small, rectangular-shaped electronic device to send messages to all sorts of people.
Few things – save for the last presidential campaign and election, who the Browns should get to be their franchise quarterback, or how much money Taylor Swift made last year – spur emotions like typing on a miniature keyboard inside a small, rectangular-shaped electronic device to send messages to all sorts of people.
On one hand, texting is very avant-garde. It’s a cool way to converse with the person two cubicles, or two time zones, away without ever saying a word. Silence can indeed by golden when you want, or need, to be discreet.
But not when you’re behind the wheel of a motor vehicle while it’s out on the highway. Texting and driving is a definite no-no. Accidents aren’t cool. We all can agree on that one.
English teachers don’t like texting anytime. They make their livelihood by instructing their students to communicate – to write – in complete sentences, with proper spelling, punctuation and subject-verb agreement. When they see something from one of their prodigies such as, "R U GOIN OUT 2NITE," they want to get physically ill.
But on the other hand, give credit to those young people of all academic abilities for inventing an entirely new language. If they understand what they’re sending, and the people with whom they‘re texting understand what they’re receiving, then it‘s communication, whether all of us gray-haired people who still have land lines want to admit it or not. And this world certainly needs all of that – the communication, that is, not the land lines – it can get, regardless of how it’s done.
Having said all that, though, I truly believe that if I were the parent of a student currently in grades 6-12, I would do everything I could to encourage him/her to be a great public speaker. That’s what is being lost with all of this faceless interaction. To stand in front of an audience and, with eye contact, the proper voice inflection and in complete, concise, easy-to-understand sentences is an art form the value of which is priceless.
We remember what we hear in such environments. I don’t think there’s ever going to be a text to even remotely approach the greatness of "Four score and seven years ago our fathers …", "… faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these …", and "… a date which will live in infamy …".
And while texting is inspiring communication in one form, it’s inhibiting it in another form.
We’ve all seen families at a restaurant when almost all of the members have their heads down and are feverishly working their phones. Are they even aware that their dinners have arrived? Or that their 3-year-old son has wandered off? Or that the restaurant has closed?
And we’ve all seen people texting while walking down a city street and wander right into traffic, or into one of these big concrete flower pots. How do they explain those situations to others? Doesn’t embarrassment creep in at some point?
While at an Akron RubberDucks baseball game several years ago, I watched a father and his teen-age son, both smiling from dear to ear, enter Canal Park in what appeared to be a Hallmark moment. What better way for the two to bond on a guy’s night out than by watching the national pastime together.
I watched them sit down at a picnic table on the concourse, take out their phones and focus on them, not each other or what was happening on the field, for a half-hour straight. They literally did not look up. It was then that I came to understand how English teachers feel, for the scene made me physically ill.
Finally, there’s the speed aspect of texting. A lot of people have told me they text because it is faster than making a phone call.
"Dialing a number and having to listen to the rings as I wait for the person to answer, is so 1980s. No one does that anymore," they explain as they shake their head and laugh, all the while failing to make eye contact with me as they text away.
OK, I get that. Time is money. We live in a fast-paced world, so speed is of the essence.
But what happens if texting is not faster?
What happens if texting is not just rude, but also not healthy?
What happens if texting simply defies logic?
I was at a family gathering over the holidays when early one morning my sister-in-law got a text – a text, mind you – from one of her adult daughters who woke up with a greatly swollen bicep stemming from an allergic reaction to a medication.
My sister-in-law, who needed to leave for work at that very moment, did what any parent would do and stopped dead in her tracks and returned the text. And back and forth it went for well over 10 minutes as the mother sat there and looked up the number of a doctor she knew while also offering advice.
Had they been communicating over the phone instead of via texting the whole process might have taken about 90 seconds – maybe.
Why in the world would you text your mother about a semi-serious health issue, possibly putting yourself at some risk, especially at a time when you knew full well that Mom always left for work right then? It makes no sense for either person.
When that was mentioned to the mother, she smiled and shook her head affirmatively, again without making eye contact with the person asking her the question.
???!!!! R U AS MIFFED BY THAT 1 AS ME