Someone once asked me to identify my favorite sound. Without hesitation, I said it was the sweet country voice of my preschool nephew, Jason. That was more than 30 years ago. Today, I'm still connected to that special voice, but now it appears to me most often on the rectangular screen of my smart phone. Without sound. Without his soft twang. Through texting.
In spite of myself, I have become a fan of texting, and find countless ways it works for me. It's an unobtrusive way to let people know you're late because you're sitting in traffic, the perfect vehicle for an encouraging "I love you," a timesaver when you need to pass along a quick message but don't want to hear what the dog did today, and a sly way to communicate when you're trapped in a boring meeting.
My problem with texting is that it's silent, somewhat secretive, and is done in solitude, a series of instant short messages often typed in perplexing coded language conjured up by 15-year-olds in study hall. Texting is about speed and thumb coordination, and it cheats me out of the simple acoustic pleasure of voice – my nephew's or anyone else's. I miss the seductive sound and accent, the animation, pitch, timbre, and tone. I would trade every obnoxious "LOL" ever typed to hear deep, rich laughter spilling wildly into the conversation.
There is the assumption that texting offers an easy way to stay in touch and strengthens connectedness. And quite often I find that to be true – especially with relatives in their 30s who have lost the ability to e-mail and seem to have no idea that their smart phone can also be used for phone calls. It bridges some mysterious, but very real, technological gap between generations. I'm begrudgingly grateful for it.
I find that texting, however, often does just the opposite of enhancing relationships. It can be lazy, robotic shorthand that perpetuates distance and detachment. Without sound and face-to-face cues, people on both ends of the muted conversation are prone to be disengaged and less emotionally involved. Genuine interaction and authentic exchanges sit unnoticed in a dim, dusty corner, while gyrating thumbs launch rapid-fire quips into a sterile void.
Texting also offers the ultimate escape hatch for anyone wanting to avoid a bona fide, grown-up, stay-in-the-room conversation. For the emotionally faint-hearted, it's easy to blast off a quick retort and go about the business of avoiding whatever it is you don't want to talk about, thereby cleverly dodging the gift of a spirited verbal debate.
Most baffling are the times I find myself painstakingly involved in a long conversation using only the keypad on my phone and my best efforts to truncate each word I'm typing. Then my dueling thumbs start to cramp, my mind grows weary of remembering abbreviations, and I long to hear the breathing voice of the person on the other end of our virtual conversation. Unable to remember why we are conversing in absolute quiet, I boldly punch in their number and dare to have the conversation voice to voice, reassured and comforted by the simple sound of connection.
Although I want to keep it as a readily available option in my communications tool kit, texting with someone is often like watching your favorite music video with the audio turned down. I prefer to have most conversations with the soundtrack at full volume, adding rhythm, mood, and personality that can only be conveyed by another's voice.
But if you want to do ur 121 communication with a txt msg, I say NP.