She sat, eyes glazed, clutching her cell phone like it was a bar of gold, little thumbs "click-clack-clicking" away. I asked her again some question about old, dead white guys, maybe the Bolsheviks. I might as well have been in another room. Her eyes never wavered from the tiny screen.
She was one of my students, and she was a text message zombie.
I’m turning 35 in a few short months, still young by many people’s standards. I should be hip to the whole text message thing. But whenever I think about this new form of communication, I start morphing into OLD MAN MACLEAN.
Old Man MacLean gets riled up when someone’s car cuts off his driveway. Old Man MacLean wants to call the cops on the shrieking college bimbos, keeping him up with their party. Old Man MacLean hates the rudeness that cell phones have created.
And Old Man MacLean is scared of the impact of text messaging on reading and writing skills.
Apparently, I’m not alone. According to a report from an Irish Examination Commission, "Text messaging, with its use of phonetic spelling and little or no punctuation, seems to pose a threat to traditional conventions in writing." The report goes on to site a frequency in punctuation and grammar errors among 15-year olds who participated in the study. The same teens were also "unduly reliant on short sentences, simple tenses and a limited vocabulary" (Reuters 2007).
I’m no Luddite, throwing my body into the cogs of technology. I realize new mediums often add to the existing language rather than destroying it. In fact, without the personal computer, I wonder if I would’ve ever become a writer (and oh what a loss that would’ve been for the dozens of you that have read my work). But time and time again, I’ve looked at my students’ schoolwork and found the letter "U" standing in for "YOU." One student even drew an arrow pointing upwards instead of writing the word "Up" (It’s a friggin’ "U" and a "P." Come on, how hard is that?).
Now, I’ve got some wonderful students. They’re bright, intuitive, and (hopefully after our school is done with them) well read. But I’m still worried.
It takes effort to enjoy a book. The better the book, the more that effort pays off. Will a generation too busy to write the word "you" take time to read a novel just for fun? Will well-crafted, descriptive language be replaced by long matrix strings of BFF’s, P911’s, and F2T’s?
Or am I just being OMM–Old Man MacLean?
So what do you think Murder fans? Anyone out there share my concerns? What impact will texting have on language and literature?