Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Texting to Success

Like a lot of people, old and young, alike, my teenage son, Will, has a Facebook account. He's on there every day, chatting back and forth with his friends. I usually have no reason to snoop around on his account, but sometimes I can't help but see exchanges between he and his friends. It's all innocent stuff, but takes some deciphering to figure out what it is they are saying. For example, last night he was visiting with a friend. This is what appeared on the screen:

Friend: "r u comin over fri nite?"

Will: "m plannin 2 b there I hope"

Friend: "u hope?"

Will: "jk - i will b there 4 sure"

Friend: "lol!"

Or something like that.

Now, I'm not so old that I don't know and even use some computer abbreviations myself. I'd much rather type "lol" rather than "I'm laughing out loud here as I sit reading the amusing comment you just wrote!" And being an informed parent, I have even read articles that show up from time to time in my women's' magazines with translations for the abbreviations you might see on your kids' computer screens. I should say I have read the articles, but I don't remember them - I'm too old to learn a second language. And I never had a need to know. Until recently, my boys only ever used the computer for playing Madden football.

I'm not sure, but I think a lot of the popularity for these shortened words has sprung from the advent of texting. Now, texting is something I am not interested in doing at all. Whenever we renew our cell plan coverage, I am always asked if I want texting capability on my phone. To me, a cell phone is just that - a phone - for talking. I see people walking around, shoulders hunched and thumbs flying while they communicate back and forth. I'm waiting for one of them to walk into a wall while doing that. I'm sure it's happened many times already! To me, texting looks hard. Those buttons are awfully tiny and quite frankly, my thumbs are not. So that's one trend I will happily pass on. But I can see the need for using as short and as few words as possible when doing so. But typing on the computer is something totally different, I would think. I can type pretty fast and I bought a program for Will last year so that he could learn to type fast, too. If one knows how to type well, then why the need for abbreviating even the simplest of words?

I suppose it's kind of cute. I remember when I was a schoolgirl, passing notes with my friends, we thought we were awfully clever to substitute the numeral 4 for the word "for." But I have to wonder what this could lead to.

My Will is not a writer, even under coercion. He will have an assignment in his English text that asks him simply to write a descriptive paragraph about something fun he did last summer. More often than not, I'll be checking his work and I'll come across this. Instead of the expected paragraph I find penciled in his lazy scrawl, "camped." Now, I'm sure you can see why I have a problem with this. It's obviously not a paragraph. Nor is it descriptive. Nor is it capitalized or punctuated. So, I'll call him over to correct it and point out why it doesn't exactly fulfill the assignment requirements. I'll tell him to get out a piece of paper and to fill half the paper with a good, descriptive paragraph about camping.

"A whole half?!"

"Yes, Will - half the paper."

"Well, can I do every other line?"

I have accepted that this child will probably never be an English teacher, but it shouldn't be like pulling teeth to get him to write. I attempt to point out to him that learning to write is essential. Often, a person's first impression of another is how well they are able to express themselves on paper, whether it be a job application or a college entrance essay. Almost every job out there requires some bit of writing. Even my husband, a blue collar worker, has to write up summaries of what he does at each job. So, it is imperative that the kids learn how to do this. The growing popularity of abbreviated language is not making my job any easier!

Four years from now Will will be high school senior. I have visions of him sending in a message to the admissions board of a college:

"i would like 2 go 2 ur school plz"

But who knows. Maybe he'll get reply back,

"That would be gr8! cya soon!"

I won't be LOL.


  1. Very funny post. I don't get the whole texting thing. I refuse to give into that trend as well. My friends kiddos text CONSTANTLY at 12 and 13 years old... during dinners out, while visiting us. It is just annoying that they never engage in REAL conversation anymore. My best friend has even gotten into it and texts her daughters' friends. UGH!!! It's not that I can't text, I prefer not to ignore those around me while I carry on a conversation in code. No thanks.

  2. i never write in complete sentences unless it is for my

  3. Yep, Sarah, that is the way of the world now. I know some of the abbreviations because I use them myself. However, I do think it has gone a little too far.

    By the way, this is Laura (Gersema) Cannon. =)

  4. Loved it, Sarah! Very interesting and entertaining. Thankfully none of us text or use all the shortened words. Matthew thinks it shows lack of intelligence--ha! I use lol and rofl...hmm, can't think of any others.
    Just kidding, I don't use that!