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Twittering away time

February 17, 2013

I love to talk and especially love to hear myself talk — much to the chagrin of those with whom I share the planet. So, I’m understandably puzzled by the increase in texting and tweeting which involve no use of the vocal chords whatsoever.

I guess I’m showing my age, which has become pretty impossible to hide. Old habits — like engaging in face to face conversation — die hard. It’s alarming how quickly the cell phone (specifically the Smart Phone) has become the preferred vehicle for social discourse for an entire generation. Can someone help me understand? 

Yesterday three of my friends, all early American Baby-Boomers, gathered to share our recent exploits and engage in some “laughter therapy” which is cheaper and more effective than “retail therapy.” We literally howled at a secret joke and fought over who got the last bite of our shared dessert. It was like a ray of sunshine pushed away the dark dreary days of late winter. Can a text or a tweet do that?

Seated next to us was a group of youngsters — defined as anyone younger than we are which suddenly includes pretty much everyone. They were texting feverishly, and if any words were uttered I didn’t hear them. They could have been sitting in separate restaurants on different continents.

I’ve even seen entire families sitting together at a restaurant working their cell phones with the concentration of air traffic controllers. Texting seems innocent enough, but studies show it can be abused as surely as mind altering drugs.
  
The old DUI (driving under the influence) charge has been expanded to DWI — driving while in-text-icated. If you're "in-text-icated," it means your concentration is on your phone which results in wild weaving and, sadly, fatal accidents. This activity has been banned or is in the process of being banned in many states. I’ve been guilty of putting on my lipstick while driving, but I've never texted on the road. It’s a challenge for me to text while sitting in a stationary chair.

I’m told “textual harassment” is a new charge popping up in police stations across the nation. Harassers can use a number of tactics including flooding the victim with text messages and sending abusive or threatening messages. With the auto correct feature on most phones, you could become the unwitting harasser. Recently, I texted my sweet sister-in-law, "I’d like to stab you to hell.” I intended to text “I’d like to stay in a hotel." Is there some way to turn off the auto-spell check? It can get you in a lot of trouble and make you sound like a lunatic.

Here’s the crowning blow — there is a project underway to convert our beloved fairy tales to text messages. Remember the hare and the tortoise? In the text version, the hare gets a high powered job in the tech industry and jets around the planet. The tortoise travels around the country by train, writing in his journal and thinking. In the end, he gets a big book deal for a memoir he wrote on Facebook. Geesh.

Another new disturbing tech-y practice is to “unfriend” someone on Facebook. Have you ever heard of anything so tacky? You ask someone to be your friend, then change your mind and zap them with the punch of a button. Friendships wax and wane, but to “unfriend” someone seems downright cruel.

I think we all need a Smart Phone Black Out Day each week just so we don’t forget how to interact with others using the spoken word.
 
Emily Jones is a retired journalist who edits a website for bouncing baby boomers facing retirement. She welcomes comments at http://www.deludeddiva.com.

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