Oh, I know that digital technology has revolutionized communications. I’m just not part of it.
I like having friends call on me or call me up. I like calling on them or calling them up. I don’t like being constantly on call or calling. I don’t have the stamina. Digital revolutionaries have it and plenty more. Look how they manage their cell phones.
When they’re not calling or answering calls, they’re sending or receiving text messages. Text messaging goes on everywhere. No location or social context is immune. Some do it while driving, dining out, proposing marriage, making love, bearing children – I wouldn’t be surprised if others do it while confessing their sins, worshiping their creator or taking their last breath. Anyone else would be exhausted. I know I would be.
To express themselves, they’ve developed a whole new language of acronyms and symbols. There must be thousands of them floating around in the blogosphere. I’m not up to learning a new language. I’d like to learn the old one first. There are thousands of words I haven’t yet mastered. Some, like LOL, have crept in from text messaging. I know that LOL means laughing out loud. I’m not sure I know what laughing out loud means. I can’t imagine that anyone constantly text messaging would have time to laugh at any volume, let alone out loud. I can barely imagine an E2EG (ear to ear grin). But if one of them did laugh out loud, I can imagine a P911 (parents coming into room alert).
I often wonder whether text messaging is literature. Take, for example, the philosophical reflection B4UCUB (Before you see, you be). It posits the same principle as Sartre’s “existence precedes essence.” But does it equal the literary quality of Ortega’s version, in which he describes man as “the novelist of himself”? I wish I knew.
Or what about such amorous protestations as IYQ4URAQT (I like you, for you are a cutie) and the poignant reply IYQ2 (I like you, too)? Do they compare with Shakespeare’s “take all myself,” which provoked the response “call me but love, and I’ll be new baptized”? Maybe it’s too early to tell.
Literary stylists like Robert Louis Stevenson, G.K. Chesterton and Winston Churchill seldom emerge when a language is young. As for love text messages, it could take years, hundreds of them, before we know whether they possess the enduring literary power of love letters.
Anyhow, I’ve just exhausted my text messaging vocabulary. Well, not quite. I know a few acronyms, like VIP and RIP, which have crept into text messaging from the old language. I’m also familiar with a few symbols, like smiling and frowning faces. But I dare not learn any more. I already risk addiction to verbal exchanges via my laptop. Why increase the risk via my cell phone?
Yes, I have a cell phone. But I refuse to memorize my cell phone number. I might accidentally reveal it to potential callers. Besides, I only turn on my cell phone when a land phone isn’t handy and there’s an emergency. If fire threatens me, I may call 911. If hunger pangs afflict me, I may call a pizza parlor. If the pizza delivery fails me, I may re-call 911.
Otherwise, my cell phone sleeps and awakens only when it needs its batteries charged. A cell phone bleating for sustenance appeals to the nurturer in me. Nurture’s call, I have found, can be as demanding as nature’s call. Fortunately, it’s the only call I receive on my cell phone. Happily, it’s not a text message.
But cell phones are only part of the digital revolution. Revolutionaries don’t just open their hearts to their friends. Through social media, they open them to everyone they know. Some open them to everyone they don’t know. They’re like an open book. Or is it an open e-book? Whatever it is, they display their thoughts like jewelers display their gems. I could never manage that. I don’t have any gem-like thoughts to display. Oh, I may have had some once, but if I did I forgot them before I wrote them down. I could never bare my all, as some do linguistically through text messaging or as others do pictorially through photo posting. I guess I don’t have the revolutionary spirit.
I was surprised to learn that text messaging can lead to repetitive strain injury. Those at greatest risk thumb their mobile phones relentlessly. I thought they’d be at risk of repetitive brain injury from absorbing text messages relentlessly. All those hybrid acronyms, alphabetic and numerical, seem conducive to mental paralysis. But apparently they’re not.
Still, it troubles me when we scan static from outer space for proof of intelligent life on other planets. I worry that if inhabitants of other planets scan our static, they’ll intercept text messages and prove there’s no intelligent life on earth.