Friday, February 26, 2010

In Praise of Text Messaging

When Dan and I got our cell phones, we didn’t care anything for text messaging. It wasn’t all the rage, yet, and seemed a frivolous add-on to an already pricey monthly contract. Now, of course, educators and parents are up in arms about the epidemic of poor spelling and soaring inattentiveness caused by kids sending “OMG, r u fer real? L8r!” to one another. In fact, a friend of mine who gave into her son’s desire for a cell phone was recently horrified to have half a dozen sixth graders sitting around her dining room table texting each other rather than just talking. I can see the concern.

But as for me and my house, WE LOVE TEXTING. For a few reasons.

First of all, I hate the phone. The last thing I need in my unpredictable household is one more entity suddenly bursting out with a nerve-jangling demand for my attention. I know I don’t have to answer it, and with “Opt-out” websites and “Caller ID,” we get few calls from solicitors and can easily see which ones not to answer. But even then, there’s the frustration of running around to find the portable handset just to realize it’s a “Restricted” or “Out of Area” number, which I will never answer. Or if it is someone dearly beloved to me or my family, I often feel overwhelmed with anxiety, knowing I have a zillion things to do and that this phone call will take a minimum of ten to fifteen minutes I really don’t have, but I feel like an absolute schmuck not answering when I know it’s someone I would otherwise LOVE to engage in a friendly conversation.

Don’t call me. I’ll call you.

But then, if I call you, I put you in the exact same position of having to drop anything and everything in which you might otherwise be involved to respond to my sudden demand for your attention. You probably aren’t as neurotic as I am about the phone, but I automatically assume that if it bugs me, it might bug someone else and why would I want to do that?

Enter the concept of text messaging. I need to find out whether Dan will be able to take Eiledon to Kung Fu the next day so I can schedule an appointment for Gavin. I don’t need to butt into his crazy work day. I just text him a quick note and, when it’s convenient for him, he gets the necessary information and responds. If he has a question or a piece of information for me, he can send it on over and when I don’t have my hands full or if I have a moment free from dealing with the kids or various pets, I can take a look at it. It’s just a much more non-invasive method of communication, ideal for busy parents.

Secondly, I’ve never been a big fan of chatting by phone. Whether it’s my own brand of Asperger’s or just anti-social behavior, I find the expectations for casual small-talk very difficult. It’s not like that with my closest friends or people in my recovery program, but in general, having to be spontaneously witty and mutually engaged in a telephone conversation is exhausting for me. With a text, I can quickly convey the one pertinent piece of information without having to chat about the weather or the price of gasoline. Like portable e-mail.

Third, I have ADHD. There are more unconnected pieces of information flying around between my ears at any given moment than there are on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. If I suddenly remember something important, I can text it to the appropriate party before it disappears into the far reaches of my gray matter! Even if it’s as simple as asking Dan to please stop at Jerry’s Foods on his way home to pick up the ice cream Eiledon is supposed to bring to school tomorrow. The information is in written form, the instruction is simple and clear, and Dan can receive the information when he has an opportunity to do so, on his terms. How do you not love that?

Lastly, texting offers a unique avenue for truly creative expression and a level of intimate connection on a moment-to-moment basis. I like to describe my phone’s text feature as a sort of walkie-talkie, direct to my husband, through which we can send secret messages at any time of day or night, in almost any situation (NOT WHILE DRIVING!!!! Just sayin’.) We spend so much of our time apart, and so much of the rest of our time focused on our kids, there’s not a whole lot left for the two of us. Each morning, if we’re lucky, we get about 15 minutes to have coffee together and take care of any family business. Text messaging gives us an opportunity to send love notes, share a joke, relate a funny event or ask a pertinent question and otherwise just let the other person know we were thinking of them. I’m not advocating texting as a replacement for togetherness. But when togetherness just ain’t happ’nin’, texting is a Godsend.

It’s a joy to be sitting in a hellaciously boring meeting and be able to text “I think I feel my toenails growing,” or some such nonsense to each other. When Dan and the kids are on a fun outing and something weird or funny happens, I get a little piece of the action in the form of a humorous message. Add in the camera phone and I get all kinds of bizarre pictures with hilarious captions from all over the place! I have grown so fond of this direct access to Dan and a few other friends that few things make me smile more readily than the sound of my phone receiving a text message: Casey Kasem yelling, in Shaggy’s voice, “Scooby Doo! Where ARE you?!?”

Because what I hear is, “Hey, Bek! I’m thinking of you!”

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