John Walker's Electronic House

Tag: text message x

The Text Message x

by on Jan.08, 2010, under The Rest

I’m not the world’s biggest fan of text messaging. To me it’s a tool. It’s a way of arranging to meet, or letting someone know you’ll be late. Or sending a pithy, clever insult. And it’s brilliant for that. Phoning someone to say something that can be taken care of in a maximum of two exchanges of 160 characters isn’t necessary. The text message takes care of it, quickly and efficiently.

However, if your conversation requires more than that, then it’s a bane. Having to try to orchestrate a complicated dialogue in minimal chunks is infuriating, and even more so because to do it you’re holding a device capable of telephoning someone. So telephone someone.

Perhaps an even larger issue with the text message is the apparent requirement to reply instantly. I don’t want to turn into some ghastly confused broadsheet columnist (wait, yes I do, that’s exactly the job I want – well, let’s assume I don’t want the ghastly part) who complains about how modern technology is driving us apart, because is it bollocks. It’s uniting us in incredible ways. But I do take issue with the immediacy of communication it’s engendered. If you need to get hold of me immediately, call me. The loud ringing sound will get my attention, and if I answer you’ll get my responses right away. If I don’t answer, you can assume I’m not able to, or don’t want to. For some reason we accept that an email may take a few hours to be responded to. But a text message, perhaps because of its relative informality, combined with its arriving on a device that follows us around (which of course is increasingly the case for email too), seems to come with a weight of responsibility. And one that arrives unsolicited. I don’t like that. While I find myself unable to remember how existence worked when phones were tied to the walls (despite living the first 20 years of my life in such a state – what did we do when we were going to be late for stuff?), I do remember that we weren’t commanded to instantly reply to everyone.

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