Texting: XLent, But It’s Not Enough

Katie Young
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Wednesday - November 23, 2005
| Del.icio.us

A recently single friend exploring the dating world after several years in committed bliss wondered out loud: “What is up with all these text messages?!”

Several guys she had met since her split with her boyfriend seemed intent on communicating with her only via text message.

“Why can’t they just pick up the phone and call?!” she said, frustrated because she didn’t even really know how to text message in the first place.

Sure the messaging was fun to a certain extent. Flirty, quick, a good distraction. But after having to wait a good half-hour for multiple messages to come through and then another two hours before she got another one, my friend was at her wit’s end.

“I don’t even know if he got that last text,” she said. “It was taking so long, sometimes we were replying back to each other at the same time! I hardly think this counts as a conversation.”

If the wait wasn’t bad enough, my friend got more and more confused by all the texting lingo. Limitations on how many characters can be sent per message has resulted in a shorthand language specific to texting.

For example, “XLent” means excellent, “pls” stands for please and “PCM” means please call me.

My gal pal never got a “PCM,” just a bunch of real words leading nowhere.

When she got brave and sent her own flirty message (only to get no response) she decided to swear off all guys who chose text messaging over true voice-to-voice phone time.

The proliferation of text messaging, or short message service (SMS), has created a whole new culture in our country. In the United States, more than 2 billion text messages are sent per month, and the industry is worth more than $55 billion.

There’s even a Guinness World Record holder for text messaging. A man from India, Deepak Sharma, texted 182,689 messages in one month. That’s 5,893 messages per day, 254 per hour and six messages per waking minute. Apparently, Sharma was sending all these messages to his friends and family who fully supported his endeavors to be a world record holder. His bill was 1,411 pages long. (Good thing he was on an unlimited text message plan.)

Text messaging is perfect for complete unobtrusive communication, at the movies or at a football game. It’s relatively cheap, easy to use and keeps us “connected.”

A short note lets someone know you’re thinking about them without you having to call and get sucked into small talk or an hour-long conversation. You don’t have to worry about keeping the conversation going or uncomfortable silences, and you can be flirty without fear of being rejected. You have time to think about what you want to say before you say it.

But texters who solely text and don’t call are hiding behind their phones. Part of getting into a new relationship is putting yourself out there - being vulnerable to all the facets new love can bring.

You can’t really get to know someone just by texting, “Thinking of you” or “What are you wearing?” and never listen to the sound of the person’s voice on the phone. How would you ever know if they were serious or joking?

There’s something to be said for getting back to simple things, like that feeling of nervousness you get when you pick up the phone and your new-found interest’s voice is on the other end. It’s a dynamic that can’t be repeated by a few words on a screen.

Of course, billions of text messagers can’t be totally wrong. There is something great to the text message both in the business and personal realm. And texting in moderation never hurt anyone.

But I think it’s important to look at how text messaging truly changes the way we communicate with each other. Not only that, but according to Virgin Mobile, people who text all the time are also at risk for TMI (text message injury) from repeating the same movements over and over. (To prevent this, experts suggest a series of exercises including shoulder shrugs, finger spreads and neck muscle stretches.)

Now we need exercises just to keep in shape for using our phones?

My friend has since learned to be a part of the texting world, at least occasionally - not wanting to be left behind in the technology movement. But she has also managed to convince her love interests that picking up the phone and calling would be better - not only for the health of their fingers but also the health of their budding relationships.

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