Monday, February 9, 2009


Technology can be great. It's what allows me to work from home, connecting with students miles away, all from the convenience of my home office. But it's also a way to conveniently distance yourself from uncomfortable situations too. Why is it that some people feel more comfortable going on instead of actually approaching someone at a bar? Does the comfort of technology afford us the experience of dealing with people whether we like them or not? 

Case and point: 

Alex and I experienced a little surprise eating lunch today. Trying to jungle Adelle with one hand and scoop up slippery vermicelli noodles with the other, Alex tries to quiet his buzzing cell phone. It makes that irritating sound whenever he gets a text. 

"Who texted you?" I demanded.

He shakes his head. "I don't recognize the number." He starts to laugh and reads the following text aloud. I almost lost it; I was laughing that hard.

"Yo if ur stupid ass want 2 fight mii we gonna fight cuz briana told me that u want 2 fight mii and dis is ragina 4 the record"

We couldn't resist. Somehow our fingers started responding..."If u come near me i'll tear ur weave down bitch".

'Ragina' didn't waste any time in her response: 

"Yo ur friend dropped her phone  we I was jumped her I put ur # in my shit so u and ur friend cece is gonna get washed up and I'm serious I no ur face and so imma fucc u up".

After trying to decipher the message, we realize that she obviously has issues with this girl, whose number she (mis)writes down in order to tell her that she's gonna 'wash up'. (I'm gonna have to remember that one. 'Alex', I say later that afternoon, 'I'm gonna wash you up if you're not careful.')

More than her desire to fight, I notice that Ragina couldn't  actually muster up the energy to tell this mystery girl her feelings. It took more effort to pick up her companion (Cece)'s phone and record a number to later vent her feelings. Very passive aggressive if you ask me. 

Kids learn young. They absorb everything so can we really blame them when they merely mimic what adults are doing everything, hiding behind the mirage of text messaging and comfortable distances? 

I used to date a guy who communicated almost all his thoughts and emotions through texts. I had to practically learn a different language just to understand what he was saying. 'Mt me law-b EO @ 11. C u ltr'. In English, it reads, 'Meet me in lobby of Employees Only (lounge) at 11. See you later.'

When he found out I was a writer, he gave me an apprehensive look. He admitted that he used to date a woman who wrote an article about how his text code. I could understand why. It's interesting that a successful, attractive, educated man needs to hide behind his blackberry (though I assume he has an iphone now) to tell a girl that he digs her. It was only after we stopped dating that I realized how much he liked me. The stream of text messages kept flowing as the dates were coming to an end. 'When can I c u again?', 'R u n town? Miss u', 'Did I do somethg wrg? Sry,' 'I want to c u. Miss ur face.' Despite the fact that I'm virtually married with a child, I still get them from time to time. 

I admit I do the same. Instead of dealing with crazed parents with tighter-than-ghetto-girls'-jeans schedules on the phone where they can ramble on and on, I tend to text succinct units of thought. I don't want to spend my day coordinating the minutia of their lives on top of trying to get their kids into the ivy leagues. Sorry, I'm not paid enough to do that. 

Technology is wonderful. I am sure that if Ben Franklin were alive, he'd be one kick ass texter, sending messages of his brilliant inventions to his investor friends. However, there is a time and place for real human interaction; confronting someone, telling a girl you like her, etc. that seems to get lost in the sea of SMS. 

The French government declared that text messaging is ruining the quality of french language. It is banned in schools for that reason. I'm beginning to wonder if they have caught onto something that I'm just beginning to realize; texting is no substitute for the richness of words, the rawness of human encounter, the subtlety in personal interactions. 

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