Text Talk

Can you hear (read) me now?

Abbrvtd mssg no way 2 comunik8 reel news



(March 2010)

Read previous Don Ward columns!
Don Ward

The other day my friend, Scott, was telling me how he just returned from a big technology show in Phoenix, where he was indoctrinated with wisdom about the future of communications; how that I should prepare for it by creating a cell phone “application,” or “app” for my newspaper, RoundAbout; how that people today want information immediately and portable.
I handed him a copy of the newspaper.
“That’s not what I mean,” he replied, pulling out his fancy Droid Eris phone and waving it at me. “People want their information on demand and downloadable onto their phones.” He slid his finger across the screen of his electronic toy as all sorts of cute little icons suddenly illuminated and danced to life.
I gave him a blank stare as I reached for my tiny, out-dated, flip-phone that can only text and, well, call people.
Yes, I’ve experienced texting. My 14-year-old daughter taught me. But my problem is, I don’t know when the conversation ends. I mean, how do you respond to “LMAO”? Is that good enough? Are we done? Or is the person on the other end expecting more? Do people ever text: “Good-bye”?
I know that “TTYL” is a pretty solid goodbye, but it’s not like you can hang up and be done, like in the good ol’ days. You’re still connected! The darned thing keeps chirping with more texts!
Another problem is getting used to the texting lingo. Usually, the person on the other end is two or three texts ahead of me before I can type the word “K,” which is short for “OK.” Which is crazy because, to me, “OK” seemed short enough already.
Seems like every day I get a text with a new acronym that throws me for a loop. I’m still standing there trying to piece it all together like a contestant on the Wheel of Fortune when more texts start flying in. These texters use more acronyms than a government employee!
And people can actually drive while doing this?
States are now passing new laws to ban texting while driving, but I’m just now getting used to driving 20 mph below the speed limit when caught behind a weaving driver who still uses the cell phone to talk.
Please – one law at a time!
But getting back to Scott... He says the future lies in the ability to click on a button on his cellular device (formerly called a phone) and launch an “application” and download the stories from the RoundAbout. I’m not sure my readers are ready for RoundAbout stories to be condensed to a mere 140 characters.
No, wait. That’s Twitter. I’m not even going there. (Are people who use Twitter called “Twits”?)
I don’t have the time for all this twitting and texting and downloading. I’m perfectly happy with my simple phone. The kind you actually use to talk with someone. Verbally. With complete words and sentences.
Oh wait, hold on a minute. There goes my phone again. A text from Scott. It’s only his 25th one today. And those are just the ones he sent to ME. I would text him back to tell him to quit texting me, but I can’t find the “Q” on this phone.
Besides, I’m trying to drive here!
Now he’s sending me a photo of the snow outside. As if I couldn’t look out the window and see it for myself. Now he’s texting me to invite me to log onto his Facebook page to see more photos he’s taken today – with his phone!
Facebook – now that’s another story. A place where you can go to tell people what you’re having for dinner. Or what you’re wearing. Or what your pet is doing. Or what you happen to be thinking about at any particular time of the day...
You get the idea. Mindless drivel for those with too much time on their hands. Or is it mindless? Or even drivel? Could this really be the wave of the future? Is this really how we are going to communicate information in this wireless age? “Social Media,” they’re calling it.
That’s a fancy term for digital socializing. But you really don’t need a fancy phone to socialize. You can experience that every morning at the coffee counter in your local convenience mart or at the checkout line at Wal-Mart and save yourself the $65 a month. Plus another $30 per month for the “digital package” to connect your phone to the Internet. And that doesn’t even cover the cost of the phone!
But if you really want to learn anything, you’ll have to pick up a newspaper and read the full story – complete with quotes and background and explanation and context. Every word spelled out. Sentences longer than 140 characters. No danger of getting “dropped.”
Remember when the telephone company used to advertise the slogan: “Reach out and touch someone”? Now they’re developing hands-free texting. Guess we’ve come full circle.
I admit, I am a victim of the technological revolution. It’s unavoidable. I never use my land-line telephone anymore – except to answer calls from tele-marketers. The stamp to mail in the monthly long distance bill costs more than the bill itself. The only reason I don’t cancel my land line service is because I want the fire department to find my house in case of an emergency.
Come to think of it, paying my home telephone bill is probably as easy as punching some numbers into my stupid cell phone.
Is there an app for that?

• Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout. Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email him at: Don@RoundAboutMadison.com.


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