Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Subtext of Texting

I’ve said I’m not gonna do it, and I really hope I stick with that plan.

Of course, I said I’d never buy a cell phone. I said it for years. Now, I have one. (I still prefer my landline, though. I like the way the phone feels. And I’m not fooled for a second by the concept of “free minutes.” If they were free, I wouldn’t get a $40-plus bill every month, right?)

I also resisted the blogging thing. Yet – here I am, doing what I know I have to do as a writer. …Looking for an audience. …Hoping that some agent will drop by and want to know more.

Texting, though? Not sure I’ll get into that… I like my thumbs too much. After all, isn’t it our thumbs – and what we can do with them – that set us apart and put us further up the evolutionary chain? It worries me that the generations younger than I might work their thumbs so hard that they fall off…

When I was in Virginia recently, I caught the local eleven o’clock news one night. They showed footage of a community parade and a particular school’s banner within that parade. If you close your eyes and imagine that picture, you might envision the scene: Ten students have been selected to represent their school. As a team, they proudly carry the banner, contributing equally to its even, horizontal display – holding it, in unison, somewhere between their chests and their ankles.

Not so in the footage I saw. In the footage I saw, only the kids at either end had hands on the banner. The group in between were all texting. No faces could be seen. Just the tops of heads. Looking down.

As tempted as I am to curse technology, I can’t do that. In many ways, I am extremely grateful for it. As a person who earns money by helping nonprofit organizations find funders, I am so happy to have advanced from the days of large foundation directories. When I think of the hours I used to spend sifting through those tomes – the pages as thin as onion skin, the typeface easily a six-point font... Now, when I need to find a funder’s guidelines, I just go to their website. And when I need to learn about funders I might not otherwise know, I can use software. The Internet is my friend in these moments.

Likewise, as a writer researching agents’ interests, perusing their websites is so much more helpful than reading the profile in a published directory. The websites are current, colorful, and complete. The information is firsthand.

As for querying those agents, I am grateful that I can use email. Back in the old days, I would have sent slews of queries out by “snail mail,” and for each I sent, I would have enclosed a self-addressed stamped envelope. That’s a lot of paper, a lot of postage, and in the end… a bit of money.

So, yes, technology has its merits. No doubt about it. But… every time some new trend emerges, I ask myself the same question: why can’t we evolve as remarkably as the machines we create?

As I go about my day and see so many people texting, I fear for all the thumbs that might soon fall off. And I wonder: with so many heads cast down… will anybody notice?

4 comments:

Sharon Weaver said...

Texting is a crafty way for the young to say what ever they want without alarming or annoying parents or teachers. I wonder how many secrets are being texted right now. How many boys are using sexually explicite terms to a girl; it could be happening in the back seat of their parents car and the parents would never know. Is someone threatening the nerdy kid with violence? The list of misuse is long. If I where a parent, texting would not be allowed.

M-G-D said...

Hi Katie & Happy Holidays! This is Melanie -- creative artist and care giver -- from Lancaster. Thanks for sharing the link. We are connected!

raindance said...

it would seem that someone would nudge them and let them know that that is inappropriate behavior. parents? teachers? bueller?

i feel bad texting once during a dinner with a good friend - and i'm just letting my boyfriend know i am alive and well!!

Cheryl said...

I hear ya loud and clear. It frightens me to no end that the kids who text don't even know how to spell or use most of the "words" they text since they're all abbreviated. THIS is our future? I'm not so sure I'm looking forward to what they'll have to offer.