Monday, December 13, 2010

Monday Reruns: The Subtext of Texting

(original post-date: December 16, 2009)

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?


Cheryl said...

I said no texting too. I don't initiate conversations but will respond. The only texts I get are time-sensitive.

My concerns have so much to do with the generation that's doing so much of the texting. I wonder how many even know how to spell the words they're abbreviating.

This morning I was in a friend's car heading back from the beach after a walk. She got the car moving, picked up her cell, and started reading her texts. We're very close so I just blurt, "Put that thing down! I want to live!" She's 46. Any time she texts any one of a large group of us, each of us asks if she's driving. Is so, we end it. If a smart mature woman is willing to risk her life, imagine what the teens are doing.

Jayne Martin said...

I always go kicking and screaming into the future, as well. I'm not into texting, but I am starting to warm to the idea of a Kindle. Maybe there's hope for me yet.

Sioux Roslawski said...

I agree. I have avoided getting into texting and will probably continue to do so. People are not talking face to face anymore. They are texting and facebooking.

Jayne---I got a Nook last spring, and it's a marvelous thing to take on trips. Before I would bring a whole box/bag of books. Now when I fly or go on vacation, I only need to take that notebook-sized device, and I'm set. And along the way, if I want to get another book, I can just order it online and it's "mine" in a matter of moments.

Anonymous said...

I think I have always been technology conscious. I am the one my friends and family ask if their computers run slow or their mobiles cease to function. I don't know it all, I am not an expert but my knowledge has come through the interest I have had in these developments over the past twenty years. I used to design and build websites but clients began to annoy me by expecting and demanding too much. But I love my mobile (cell phone to you. My thumbs are still intact :-) Mine is used mostly for family. I am sent daily pictures of my grandson and kept happen as well (Yes, I admit I hear better on the landline.) I am only sorry that where we live, the mobile signal is sometimes so dim that a conversation stops mid course or a text wont send. Still,I have hurled a mobile phone across the floor just once in temper. (Must have been hormonal!)So, love me, love technology.If I think back it probably started when I squeezed another few days off school to build a photographic enlarger from a pair of old glasses, a children's toy projector and a standard lamp, following and adapting the diagram pictured in one of our Encyclopaedias, of a telescope.It worked too!

Anonymous said...

Strangely, technology let me down there - half my comment seems to be missing - oh well - should have said: "I am sent daily pictures of my grandson and kept up to date with events as they happen as well by phone. (Yes, I admit I hear better on the landline.)"

Well, no one is perfect!:-)

Anonymous said...

I just wish people would learn some moderation with it. It's like people with their iPods, when I was in college I would watch kids walk between buildings - literally, a two minute walk - and spend five minutes jostling all of their things so they could plug in their iPods so they could be inside their own bubble instead of participating briefly with the world around them. The attachment that develops between people and their technology is incredible. I'm not saying I wouldn't be pretty upset to be without my Android, but I am capable of putting it aside and enjoying the company of people or a quiet walk.

Lazarus said...

Katie, you're fighting the good fight but you can't win, the texting craze will overcome you eventually. We are a society that now shuns direct contact, even by phone. Text and e-mail is the preferred. Oh, and leaving typed comments on blog pages!