“I have to change phone plans”, Miss Dee declared the other day. “Oh?” I asked. “My current plan doesn’t allow for enough text messages” and then in a panicky voice, “Darn, I’m going to go over.” Almost in unison my husband and I said “stop texting!” That got us an eye roll.
The same phone plan had been perfectly fine for almost two years. Overnight, her texting needs changed and we now have a teen who seems glued to her phone. She is manically typing responses to more than one person at a time day and night.
I have to admit, I’ve never felt the generation gap more keenly than with this. Most other things, I can at the very least relate to. I remember (albeit distantly) what it was like to be a teenager, the mood swings, the angst. So whilst I may not like it, I understand it. But this texting business? That just puzzles me.
Not that I don’t text. I do. A fair bit to be truthful. But my texts are very much short and sharp messages designed to not disturb but communicate simple things, like: “Leaving now” or “Running five minutes late”, some of them are a bit more social, perhaps: “Good luck with your interview” or “enjoy your weekend away”, but none of it is designed as a full conversation. In fact, I fail to see how you could conduct a full conversation with just texts.
Here are a couple of examples of exchanges of texts with Miss Dee and us.
Text Exchange 1 – with Dad
Miss Dee: “Why did you and Mum buy more tape?”
Dad: “It was before you decided to stop using it. If you don’t need it I can use it to prevent blisters.”
Miss Dee: “I haven’t stopped using it? Wait is it the bad one?”
Dad: “No, it’s the good one.”
Miss Dee: “So it’s the good one? The one I like?”
Miss Dee: “But I still have to use it.”
Dad: “Read my earlier SMS. And put it in my drawer (if that helps).”
Miss Dee: “I read it, but there’s no way it will get used up for the blister thing. It takes months to get rid of through taping my knees.”
Dad: “I have years”
Note: Dad wanted it known that this is the longest text conversation he’s ever had.
Text Exchange 2– with Mum
Miss Dee: “You know my writing assignment. It’s meant to describe overcoming obstacles. Does it do that?”
The time is 8am and the writing assignment is due at 9am, I am at work. Miss Dee had neglected to tell me the night before when she asked me to edit her work that the purpose was to demonstrate an obstacle had been overcome. She had been adamant she didn’t want a happy ending.
I weigh my answer carefully: “I think you can argue that by her turning to evil she has overcome her fears and belittling from the villagers.” I sooth myself by thinking that only the author knows what she really means anyway.
Miss Dee: “Cool”.
So, I’ve absolutely no idea what kind of exchanges are taking place that require so much urgency and time to attend to and certainly the examples above don’t contribute to me seeing much value.
Constantly texting seems to me like paying attention to that which you don’t have in front of you whilst neglecting what is. I don’t know how to solve it though. So all I can do is ensure that there are boundaries: dinner time is time with family not the phone and when walking, look around not at the phone.
So whilst texting may be the best new thing, being present will never get old.
“The clock is running. Make the most of today. Time waits for no man. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it is called the present.” – Alice Morse Earle