Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Textual Relations

I hate text messaging.

And with that statement, I officially begin the downward spiral into old fogieism. According to a wire article here, e-mail usage is largely giving way to text messaging among the "rising generation". How depressing. It's bad enough that 75% of the music I listen to is 30-40 years old, and it's not enough that I have embraced e-mail and blogging. Nope, I'm still behind the curve, and being dragged ever closer to full participation in one of my biggest pet peeves since middle-aged soccer moms started buying white Lexus SUV's.

When I started teaching four years ago, I had one rule in class: if a cell phone went off, I got to answer it. The rule worked well, and provided multiple occasions of in-class comedy that actually provided tension breakers in the awkward teacher-student dynamic. But then about a year or two ago, I started noticing students in the back of the room, staring under their desks at their crotches. Turns out they were holding their cell phones just out of my sight line, texting away with their little blips, acronymns, and 2,000 versions of smiley-faces. The dumbest thing was that they didn't think I could tell what they were doing. It was almost as bad as the F student that can't string seven words together who suddenly turns in a piece of brilliant research and doesn't think I'll nail him for plagiarism.

I can understand the advantages of texting, as far as convenience and timeliness goes. And those of us who haven't caved in to a $75/month cell phone plan so we can get a comfortable daytime talk minutes package will appreciate not having to get closer to the 40 cent/minute overcharge (which nailed me for about 90 bucks two months ago). But those reasons aside, I just can't embrace the image texting brings along with it...the trendy, hip, jabbering junior high school age girl immaturity of it. "R U" will never be an acceptable substitute for "Are You", and I refuse to insert little smiley faces, no matter how friendly my message may be. A year ago I met a girl I was interested in pursuing, but I had this uneasy feeling that in order to get into her life I was going to have to start having frequent "textual relations". I couldn't do it.

Now that I think of it, the only reason I'm even faced with this dilemna is that while I near the outer edges of the "single LDS social scene" age spectrum, the girls entering at the other end are bringing the text-message culture along with them. Many of my guy friends--even some older than me--have converted over to this standard communication MO, but I'd wonder if they'll have anything to do with it once we're all married and whisked away into a more traditional adult lifestyle. Of course, that carries it's own stigmas--polo shirts and a living room full of brightly colored plastic toys.

The technology gap is just one symptom of nearing the far end of the singles spectrum. Not long ago, my roommate Erik had a pair of sobering encounters within a period of about 45 minutes that seem to frame the situation perfectly:

1. During a stake Music in the Park activity, one inspired performer lit up the crowd with a solo keyboard and vocal rendition of the 80's slow-dance favorite "Forever Young" by Alphaville. Later my roommate cornered the performer and shared his kudos with the selection. The grateful performer, happy to have an appreciative audience, said, "yeah, I love that one. But most of the people here were born in '86, and here I am, born in '82, man!"

My roommate was born in '75.

2. Following the activity, we returned to our house, where an honorary BBQ for a friend was in full-swing. Eventually a crowd of--as my roommate would call them--"boppers" arrived, and started talking to a couple of girls we had invited along. The girls--graduates of the class of 2000--were joking about how old they felt compared to the "bopper" crowd, when one of said group piped up, "well, at least you didn't graduate back in the 90's."

Erik should have texted him that his mom had arrived to give him a ride home...and ended it with a ":)".