11 July 2008

Do You Text?

It's Friday, so I get to write about personal technology. Yep. Same starting comment as last Friday (4 July 2008: iWant).

Texting, also known as messaging, is the current generational divide. Older people use email. Younger people use text (very short messages) on their cell phones. What's interesting is the divide is not at 50 years old, or even 30 years old. It appears to be at about... 20 years old. Adolescents do have email accounts; they just don't use them very much. Boomers mastered email and now are slowly adopting text. We are aware that we're the late majority on this technology. We actually ask each other, "Do you text?"

SMS most common: The text protocol for most of us is SMS, or Short Message Service. That's the generic form that allows us to type a text message, send it through the cell phone, and store it on the unit, besides. For many of us, our introduction to texting was on the computer keyboard, tied to our email programs. A pop-up window or sound would alert us to a friend or relative who was online and available for chat. That version of texting didn't have an archive, so we treated it as a fleeting memo. Computer users sometimes kept chats going all day long—it was our first glimpse at serious online multi-tasking.

When text replaced email: Short messaging became cheap or free on cell phones, and that's when the portable writing system shifted from email to phone service. Today's web-enabled cell phone allows email, of course, but that still involves log-in and formatting. In short, the multiple keystrokes (and cognitive shifts) of email take too much time. SMS is nearly instantaneous although it takes some adjustment to tiny keyboards or coding schemes. The only thing faster and shorter than texting? Twitter. That's the very short message that still managers to capture a lot of information and also permits distribution to a group.

My favorite aspects of text messaging:
Numbers for clear communication—Flight 1514 at Gate C10.
Extremely short advisory—Late by 15 minutes.
Alert for a needed conversation—Emailing you later.
Interrupting a very busy person—Are you available?
(Use this strategy sparingly.)
Shifting from coded phone pad to a QWERTY keyboard.
(Even tiny QWERTY of the iPhone is appreciated.)
The iPhone's color-coded bubbles for alternating messages.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.


Irene Hammond said...

I think I am off the charts on the texting. At 43, I love to text, my mom, loves to text but has no one but me to text with. It helps that our phones are QWERTY. It is quick, and many time so much better than a phone call & more direct than email. Besides I always have my phone with me, not the same w/ my email.

Mary Bold said...

Thanks for the good multi-generational story! I agree that texting is better than phone...I hate taking a colleague's time to access a voicemail that is literally a few words in length. Texting is the right alternative. ~ MB