Twenty years ago today, the first ever text was sent by a 22-year-old engineer working at an English telecom company who was testing out the software. The text read “Merry Christmas.” I know, it is a weird text—it doesn’t even have any Emojis in it! And it’s so not non-denominational. Very dated.
Also, you’re not supposed to put a period at the end of a text like that. It comes off as like kind of terse and less like, “I casually want this conversation to keep flowing.” I know this because a friend of mine once exclaimed, “Did you feel the need to put a period?!?” when she asked to see the text I sent some boy, and when I was like,”What? Why is good punctuation bad?” she acted as if I was being slow.
And I was being slow. Because texting is a whole new language that our generation contends with, where periods, exclamation points (and their quantity), question marks, and semicolons followed by open parentheses all mean very intricate and subtle things that you can’t even really get at in normal conversation. It’s actually shocking we don’t have a class on texting, although it would be difficult to classify —would it be in Sociology? Psych? Lit Arts? MCM? “For me it was just another day’s testing, it didn’t seem to be anything big at the time” Neil Papworth, the (iconic?) first texter, has said.
Obviously, that’s a dumb statement because it is a huge deal. This guy made the move that defines our generation. Yes, I know, Facebook too… but there are people who don’t have Facebook. You might think they’re annoying and weird, but they exist. No one doesn’t have texting. That would be crazy. The idea that texting is now somewhat passé as it is slowly replaced by iMessage, BBM, and Whatsapp is ignorable; I consider those all sub-categories of the higher concept “texting.” (Also, it might be a little excessive to say texting, which is only as old as a sophomore here, is past its prime. And most juniors and seniors should be interested to know that they in fact existed in a time before texting, which is something I can’t claim. Not to make you feel old or anything).
So on this special occasion, take a minute to consider your life without texting. Yes, there would be far fewer ways for people to ignore or you, and fewer subtleties of writing to learn, and you would spend a lot less time talking about hating AutoCorrect, but it would also be way more difficult to make dinner plans. And to cancel plans when you want to nap. Also consider the hierarchy of communication, as put by the greatest show on television right now: “The lowest, that would be Facebook, followed by G-chat, then texting, then e-mail, then phone. Face-to-face is of course ideal, but that’s just not of this time.”