I Text, Therefore I Am

by Karen De Coster

Recently by Karen De Coster: We Should Do What the Government Says Is Good for Us

I must reveal my newest math: The Idiocracy + Phone Devices = Dysfunctional Texting Idiocracy.

First, I want to express a few thoughts before I explain my equation. As folks may or may not know, I am no Luddite. I am a technology aficionado. I really do love portable computing devices, and that includes the use of text as a method of messaging. I use texting with friends because it can be a very convenient and useful tool. Most of my friends – but not all – are intelligent enough to understand the limitations of the tool. Text, in my world, is used as an instant-o-gram, a quickie message service, a "hello" tool, or even for winging fun and unusual sightings and/or comments every now and then. It's a great way of staying in touch with the right thoughts or pictures, and at a time that is convenient for both the sender and receiver.

Most of my friends, however, understand that texting does not replace face time and real conversation. Texting negates eye contact, body language, and voice expression, which makes it far worse than the cell phone. Person-to-person contact, of course, is the ideal, even if it is extremely old-fashioned. A lot can be said about a conversation by looking at a person's body language and eye contact. Where the phone loses that capacity, at least it offers the voice connection. With a phone call there is voice inflection allowing you to gauge the other person's mood, sincerity, and tone. In comparison, texting is the wood outhouse of civilization and has become the building block of the Dysfunctional Idiocracy.

The misguided libertarians often get angry with me for criticizing that which deserves my wrath because they think that no free, independent act should ever be criticized. They confuse criticism with coercion. In knee jerk fashion, they mistake my cultural criticism of certain human actions for government laws that makes said acts illegal and therefore subject to criminal punishment. I don't want to pass laws disallowing or punishing human folly; I just want the freedom to make fun of it all.

The members of the Dysfunctional Idiocracy have their cell phones stuck in their face 24/7. It doesn't matter if they are on the elliptical at the gym, in the middle of dinner, in line at a retail store, in a meeting at work, or crossing busy, 4-lane road. Ask me how many times I have almost run over some nitwit crossing the road in front of me, looking down at his phone, while forgetting he is crossing a 4-lane, 45 mph road. It's happened too many times to count. Furthermore, while driving, I always watch people driving around me and I see them, yes, texting, texting, texting.

The Dysfunctional Texting Idiocracy is expressed via the extreme use of texting that goes beyond basic Idiocracy behaviors. One of the most notable of all Texting Idiocracy behaviors is the notion that many relationships are now fully carried out via text messaging. Dates are arranged by text, and they are also broken by text under the assumption that the other person also has their muzzle buried in their phone and will therefore get the text timely. The meat of relationships is carried out by texting – long conversations in broken English are somehow endearing in the land of the Texting Idiocracy.

Remarkably, relationship break-ups also occur by text. That eliminates any need for honesty, closure, explanation, or courtesy. In fact, my favorite text act of all time is the "because I didn't return your text for many days [or weeks?], that means I have broken up with you" act. Oh yes – the act of not texting back is the grandest break-up of all. If you dare to not get the hint that the no-text non-message was actually a message to you that "we are done," then you have just failed Text Communications 101. You are a boob.

The ultimate break-up fallout by text is when the text ignorer continues to ignore the texter in order to express that a break-up has occurred, but the party being broken up with continues to text in anticipation that a response will ultimately come forth, thus ending any perception of a break-up. This can go on for months.

Do I see people doing this? Yes. And sadly, they are not teenagers. It boggles my mind.

The "I Text, Therefore I Am" generation is not just the young people who have grown up with electronic devices and social media. Oh no, no, no – let's not blame this one on the young folks. It's the aging bar crowd and old fogeys, the Baby Boomers and older Gen X'ers (40 and 50-somethings), who are the worst offenders. You people are the grand bozos of the Boobus Textus Society. You are the great offenders, not the kids. In fact, you are teaching your kids that it is okay to be a committed Boobus Textus. Monkey see, monkey do is in your court. And your younger monkeys are watching you and learning from the elder Idiocracy.

And you oldsters are the folks who should know better because you grew up in households where telephone calls were not allowed for just any old blab-a-thon; you actually needed a reason to call a friend on your parents' dime. Remember when you had to wait two hours to make a phone call because your household had a shared party line? Most of the time you went to your friend's house and knocked on the door. You rode a bike or walked several blocks to earn a conversation with another human being who had a face.

The curious term I keep hearing in the adult Text World is "she's [or he's] a texter." This is what people say about their friends or significant other. Apparently, this is what defines people nowadays. A texter is defined as the understanding that the person in question, the "texter," carries out all important communications by text, so the whole world waits on the texter to, well, text. A no-text is a sign the texter is either dead or an idiot. If the texter is known to be alive and therefore deemed an idiot, the person expecting a text sends angry texts to the texter expressing rage over not receiving the expected text. Ultimately, either text rage or text silence will commence, and proper meaning must be drawn from either possible scenario so that all is understood by both parties to the text-o-rama. Note that text silence can be interpreted in various ways, by both parties to the silence, so communication chaos generally ensues.

Indeed, this is the Retardocracy around us.

I love it when private businesses post signs restricting cell phone use, such as “Don’t talk or text on your cell phone while in line.” Three cheers, especially if they enforce their rules. You think you wouldn’t have to tell people that with huge black-and-white signs blaring at them, but no, you do have to tell them. And tell them again and again and again. And still, they text.

I despise it when people are in my presence and they can't stop texting. And I am not talking about urgent work or family stuff – it's the ludicrous, irrelevant hacking away at one's phone just because their brain is wired to execute meaningless exploits at all times of the day. It's rude and I have no patience for it.

My least favorite act is when others try to carry out important – and long! – conversations via texting. They actually expect me to write a 500-word essay back to them via the slow act of typing away on a virtual keyboard with my index finger. I don't think so. I ignore the texts or I say, "call me." But experience shows that eventually, not only do texters cease to have a face, but they also become non-callers. As they devolve from face to phone to text, they lose touch with real people and real relationships. They no longer have the ability to interact directly with flesh and bones. They are living life in a cartoon.

Now this is not just one person's cantankerous view. I have this conversation with many of my text tool-loving friends who have had the same experiences as I have had with the culture of over-text. I know of many friendships that have either turned into a barely-a-friendship, or, they have ended due to one person's consistent reliance on texting as a means of communication and association.

Again, I shall express the view that I love portable computing devices, but I don't allow them to meddle in my human relationships. Humans, to me, have faces and voices, and those unique characteristics are at the core of their expressive personality and personal character. Not their index fingers.

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