Sunday, April 5, 2009

Blogging About Texting

Technically I’m “texting” right now, aren’t I? Because essentially the term “texting” means “sending a bit of text from one person to another.” By that definition, we’ve been “texting” since we developed the telegraph and the postal system.

However, the word “texting” has only existed since the age of cell phones—more specifically, cell phones that transmit and receive visual, rather than auditory, messages. (Remember those old clunky pieces of plastic with chop-stick-thick antennas? Hold up your Blackberry and imagine trying to text on one of those old devices.) This probably runs hand-in-hand with the fact that the trend in communicating by texting—rather than, say, letter-writing (heaven forbid), emailing or even calling—has spiked within the last few years. When I graduated from high school, everyone was still excited by IM-ing. Little did they realize how limiting that form of communication was. (It chained you to your computer!) When cell phones came along, the floodgates opened. The freedom almost was almost too much to believe. You could contact anyone. Anytime. Anywhere. (Unless, of course, they did something ridiculous like turn their phone off or go somewhere without service. But there’s just no helping some fools.)

Needless to say, I did not join the ranks of cell phone-carrying devotees until approximately one year ago. That means that people could not contact me anytime, anywhere. Admittedly, this was probably a bit of a deterrent to my social life in college, but seeing as I did not seem to have much in common with most of the people there anyway, I doubt a cell phone would have made much difference. (Instead, I used all that money I saved on monthly phone bills to study abroad and travel to cool places like London and Amsterdam and Barcelona!)

At the end of my senior year, however, when I finally determined that I would be moving to NYC to begin the next “phase” of my life, I decided that it was time to take the plunge. Forty dollars-a-month or not, cell phones had undeniably become the number one form of communication between members of my generation, and if I wanted to create any sort of lasting social ties in my new place of residence, I needed to make it easy for people to contact me. What’s more, this would be my first residence that did not come pre-equipped with a landline. Formerly, everywhere I had lived—at both my home and my college dormitories—had already had a telephone installed. From my perspective, it seemed silly to have two phones. If someone wanted to reach me, they could leave a message. Besides, if I wasn’t there, I was probably too busy to talk to them anyway! (I detested when people answered their phones in the middle of a meal or chattered mindlessly while wandering through a shopping mall. One task at a time, folks!) This time, however, there was no pre-arranged phone line awaiting me. Therefore, I figured, I might as well buy a cell phone.

Thus, last May, I purchased a two-year, 450 minute-per-month plan with Verizon. With the exception of one stressful month during which I was alone, unemployed, uninsured, and desperately worrying that I had made the wrong decision in plopping myself down in this city and expecting to “make it work,” I have never exceeded my “talk time” allowance; most months I am lucky if I use even half of the allotted minutes. Therefore it seems impractical, never mind unnecessary, to have texting as to supplement my plan. Why should I waste an additional $5 (+ taxes!) per month on yet another form of intrusive communication when I can’t even use up all of the service for which I am already paying?

Unfortunately—as before—most of my peers do not agree with this reasoning. They refuse to simply be pleased that I have finally acquired a cell phone; they must immediately berate me for my lack of texting capabilities. “How do you survive?” they want to know—the same thing they wanted to know before I bought a cell phone. “It’s just five dollars a month.” This is a lie, though, because the true cost would be ten dollars, assuming I don’t want to be counting people’s texts to make sure they don’t push me over your “text limit” for the month, since “everyone” has unlimited texting (because “everyone” is on a family plan). Paying $120+ per year to type more than I already do simply seems unappealing. I’d rather use that money to buy a one-way plane ticket!

Yes, sometimes there are instances when I want to relay information but don’t really want to have an entire conversation with someone. And yes, my lack of texting availability probably prevents me from receiving some spontaneous, thoughtful messages and invitations from various people who only operate “on the fly.” But the payoff is that my life is less chaotic. I’m not always waiting for a reply from someone I have just texted (which is exactly what happens on IM—I want an instant reply! Now! If they’re sitting at their computer, like me, why don’t they just write back?). In the same vein, not having texting prevents me from being forced to give an instantaneous reply to every message—or any more instantaneous than cell phone calling etiquette allows. I don’t treat my phone like an extra appendage, and so I don’t expect others to, either. (Admittedly, this can lead to some major frustration and disappointment, when I am stuck in the company of someone who spends more time staring at and talking on their cell phone than interacting with me).

Perhaps all this hemming and hawing makes me into an old-fashioned fuddy-duddy. Perhaps I’m one of those girls who will grow up into an anti-technology old crone who is always reminding everyone, “Back in my day….” However, the most likely scenario involves me caving in to peer pressure and add texting to my plan. The problem is, by the time I get around to doing that, some technology will come along that lets us all read each other’s minds, or some such thing, and then what am I going to do? (Expense aside, I draw the line at revealing my plans for world domination to the likes of the Burger King cashier.) I suppose I’ll stick with my pre-cell phone mantra for now: “I’m not morally opposed to texting. If you want to pay for it, I’d be happy to get it!”


K said...

I was also very anti-texting when I first got my cell phone, then as people continued to text me more and more, I gave in, and I'm glad that I did. I can't wait until I get my iPhone/Blackberry in October when my contract is up. It's not that I like people being able to reach me... I just like having access to information at all times. I'm also quite the technophile. :-P

Daniel said...

i only pay 40 dollars a month AND i have unlimited texting...don't forget wiley employees get a 10% discount on verizon subscriptions. sorry i sold you out and your non-texting to the big cheese.

K said...

Oh yeah, I forgot about employee discounts! Every company I've ever worked for had a discount. I only pay $35 a month with unlimited texting.