Life in the communications slow lane

I resisted e-mail until my mom urged me online. Can I draw the line at texting? 

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
Communicating in Boston

As I am deeply attached to written letters, sent and received, I resisted getting involved with e-mail when it took the world by storm two decades ago. It just wasn’t in me. But the pressures were legion, including from my own savvy and up-to-date mom. I soon found myself cascading headlong down the slippery slope of rapid contact and response. 

I have no real regrets. Exchanges with family and friends are usually gratifying, and I’ve earned a good income receiving documents and winging edited versions back to their authors through cyberspace. Checking e-mail is not always the first thing I do in the morning, especially when the pastures are soft and the horses whinnying, but these days I always get to it before long. There might be a new job or really fresh news from family or far-flung friends.

But I have so far drawn a line at texting. I look (in non-text contexts) at LOL (or more emphatically ROFL), RU OK? CU, or the slightly more elaborate BCNU with a jaundiced eye. And these are the positive examples. I shudder at the host of dismissive and negative texting abbreviations available – so quickly thumbed into existence, so hard to retract.

Texting shortcuts have crept into e-mail and invaded Facebook, and all but the simplest and most obvious or historical (I do get FYI) throw me. The first time I encountered IMHO I transposed the M and H and envisioned a new, personalized health-care option. SRY is clear enough, but how can it carry enough weight to express true remorse and a desire to make up? 

Even at the sometimes frenetic pace of e-mail, I use and ever hope to receive fully developed sentences, nuance, good grammar, and due care in expression. 

Fortunately I have friends who feel the same way. Their messages arrive with graceful introductions. How I love “My dear Swun” in my inbox of a morning. The message that follows from a friend in Germany reads like a true pen-on-paper letter; it has substance, depth, structure, and a heartfelt conclusion. I can hardly wait to reply in kind. Another friend, always pressed for time, often communicates via e-mail in sentence fragments, but still packs a lot into a few carefully crafted words, encapsulating whole genres of Russian literature and Western philosophy in a few succinct phrases that also somehow address my simple description of feeding the cows that day.

But texting admittedly plays a vital role in online communications for anyone not drawing Social Security (and for many who are), and seems to be here to stay – at least until something faster comes along. 

So, I am willing to learn, if not use these truncated semiotics. As a friend put it to me recently, “One reason to like texting ... my adult son lets me into his world – just a little bit. For that alone I am eternally grateful.” And I have to admit, TDTU is enough to float anyone’s boat: “totally devoted to you.” Potentially earth moving, even in text. 

And who knows? Given my history of rejecting then gradually accepting new ways of connecting, I may find myself experimenting now and then with texting.

After all, YOLO.

A few texting terms

BCNU – Be seeing you

BRB – Be right back

BTW – By the way

CU – See you

FWIW – For what it’s worth

FYI – For your information

GR8 – Great

IMHO – In my humble opinion

J/K – Just kidding

L8R – Later

LOL – Laughing out loud

MHOTY – My hat’s off to you

NUB – ‘Newbie,’ someone new to a game or website

ROFL – Rolling on the floor laughing

SRY – Sorry

TDTU – Totally devoted to you

TMI – Too much information

TX – Thanks (also THX)

TTYL – Talk to you later

XOXO – Hugs and kisses

YOLO – You only live once

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