Saturday, December 15, 2007

InTEXTicated Kids

Tweens and teens texting all over town on their cell phones gives new meaning to the phrase, “Thumbs up!”

How do they do it? And how do they do it with such lightening fast speed? Why do they do it instead of just calling? (Probably the same reason most of us resort to email instead of picking up the old-fashioned telephone: it saves time). Somehow in this still-new millennium the written word speaks faster then, well, the spoken word.

Walking down Elm, sitting outside of Starbucks, pulling up in front of New Canaan High or Saxe or the Outback and you will find child upon child with heads bent down towards their cellular devices thumbs working feverishly. They even drive while texting! That seems to be taking things way too far.

Goodness! It was hard enough for me as a teen to learn to type with my fingers let alone use my thumbs to send a message on a keyboard as small as a cell phone’s. I am a total dork trying to use my thumb to scroll down my contacts with my right thumb, and trying to read the tiny type with my feeble eyes, and then correctly hit send with my left thumb to actually speak. I often mean to call Jon, my husband, but end up hitting “Jen,” my friend, instead. Ditto “Hoelzer” instead of “home.” It’s a malfunction of eyes and digits!

But the kids – yikes! Maybe it’s those early years of video game controllers and all of that thumb muscle toning that’s built their dexterity and swiftness. Tap-tap-tap-tap-TAP! Some message or other goes hurtling through the networks of Verizon, Sprint, Cingular and T-Mobile, et al and just as quickly a response is announced with a tune or a tone.

“Why don’t you just call him?” I ask Janet or Jack incredulously. And this generation’s “intelligent” answer is always, “Because!”

There is even a service/web site thing called “Twitter,” in which you can text dozens of your friends at any given moment: “At the beach” or “Sitting outside of Dunkin’ Donuts” or “Going hiking in Jackson.” My 22-year-old son Kenny does this. I don’t get it; who cares? Do all of your friends really need to know what you are doing at that exact moment?

The texts I receive from my daughter can be occasionally annoying and suspect. Suspect because if I get one during the school day I can picture her plain as day thumbing away beneath a desk during Mr. Dockum’s science class. Annoying because the text may read, “I have a free in half an hour. Wanna bring me a *$ ?” (That’s shorthand for “Starbucks.”) The time I received that particular ditty I texted back: “How ‘bout No!”

It is impressive and intimidating and fascinating watching these thumb typing bandits as they walk, talk, sip beverages, chew gum, snack, shop and/or watch t.v. or school sporting events. It’s simply intoxicating for them.

And we’re left scratching our heads with our fingers, opposable thumbs clumsy and slow and uncool.

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