Short Message Service (SMS) is a telecommunications protocol that allows one to send short (160 characters or less) text messages, and it is available on most cel phones.
Addiction is characterized by the compulsive use of substances or engagement of behaviors despite clear evidence to the user of negative consequences.
One of our granddaughters, age 15, was uncharacteristically experiencing a sharp drop in her marks at school. At the same time, she seemed tired most of the time, and her interest in outside activities appeared to be waning.
Then the cel bill arrived.
Her mother, understandably curious about a number of charges for texts that fell outside their plan, called Verizon. What she found out shocked her.
Our granddaughter had 13,800 text messages attributed to her phone for that month. This amounted to an average of approximately 460 per day, including both outgoing and incoming messages.
When her mother reviewed the details of the bill, which were subsequently sent to her by Verizon, she noted that - at the times she was in school, in class - messages were being sent out every one to three minutes.
Even after she thought her daughter was sleeping in her room, messages continued at the same rate.
While her traditional studies were slipping, our granddaughter was obviously developing a superior talent for transmitting messages with lightning speed, using the new lingo of the day, without even looking at her cel phone. Obviously, this was going on beneath her desk in school, for example, unbeknownst to the teachers. Further it continued to go on even in the darkness of her room.
The experience made me curious to learn more about this strange new phenomenon. I was vaguely aware it existed, of course, but my appreciation for the scope of the trend had been totally lost in the dust of its accelerating usage.
According to the website, Wikipedia, the abbreviated language used by texters “evolved from the shorthand used in internet chat rooms. The objective is to use the least number of characters possible to put across a comprehensible message. Punctuation and grammar are largely ignored.”
Thus, the following hypothetical message, which contains 120 characters: (“Hi mate. Are you okay? I am sorry that I forgot to call you last night. Why don’t we go and see a film tomorrow?”) can be reduced, in text speak, to 56 characters, as follows: (“hi m8 u k? sry 4gt 2 cal u lst nyt y dnt we go c flm 2mo.”)
The problem - if, in fact there is one - may not be limited to the United States. The BBC has reported on instances where English schoolchildren have submitted essays in school, using the language of text speak, which was largely incomprehensible to the teachers involved.
In another possible indication of its growing impact, the state of Washington just made it illegal to text while driving.
A few days after I first heard about this situation, I was talking to one of our other granddaughters, a 16-year-old, and she admitted that she sent out about 100 text messages a day. She thought she wasn’t a particularly big user of the technology, compared to others she knew.
The next time I talked to my son back east, who has three young daughters, I raised the issue, and he said he was in a room with one of his daughters and her friend one day and he noticed that they were texting each other, instead of talking.
So, has it come to the point where texting has not only replaced talking on the phone, but also talking in general? Is this rage rapidly becoming a world unto itself to the exclusion of all other interests?
If that is not yet the case, will it become so in the near future, as the trend continues to gather steam?
Or is it No Big Deal?
Dave McGill, News Correspondent……………….
Dave’s column, “The Contrarian,” published every Wednesday to Gather Essentials: News will occasionally present a contrary view to various aspects of the news, or an alternate take on the conventional wisdom of the day………….
Dave has been a senior officer of a large eastern insurance company, involved in economic projections and investment strategy, president of a Midwestern mortgage banking company, and a financial consultant in Southern California, serving clients in the field of commercial real estate development…………….
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