Not too long ago, my extremely well-educated mother decided to jump on the technology bandwagon of a generation a few decades her junior. Texting has always been her “get off my lawn,” sticking point when talking about my generation: “You all never talk to each other anymore. You don’t know how to have a conversation.” And in some ways, she is right. But for us, the children of the 90s, texting has been the social currency for as long as I can remember. It began in high school for me where we had to find a loophole to talk to our friends before the cell phone company’s “free calls after 9pm,” kicked in. We had to find a way to communicate without, you know, actually talking to each other, and our plans vastly changed from one week to the next. One week we might just drive around town for hours trying to appear cool, and the next we might hang out at the mall for hours and try to appear cool. As you know, appearing cool is at the top of the list of every teenager’s to-do list, something I never came close to mastering, and talking on the phone to your friends was decidedly not cool. I think.
So, the birth of texting began, but how has it changed us and how we communicate? We’ve heard the argument before that technology is actually making us dumber, but I can go a step further and provide some hard-hitting, ground-breaking facts. I used to be a great speller, now I’m less so. In all my years of school, I can’t remember a time where I took a spelling test and didn’t score at least a 95. I have a knack for knowing how words are put together, but with the advent of texting, spell-check, and auto-correct, this magnificent gift has diminished. Why? Dependence. Dependence on technology, which doesn’t make me use my brain.
When I was younger I needed to know how to spell; otherwise, my mother would send me to the dictionary to look to find the word that alluded me. Looking back, it made little sense to attempt to try to find the spelling of a word that I didn’t know how to spell. Being tasked to look up a word was absolute drudgery. Now, when writing, or even sending a text, all my spelling mistakes are highlighted, and in some cases, texting for instance, words are changed completely. No longer do we have the time to type out the word, “you.” Three whole letters? Who has that kind of time? “U” now suffices and I found it absolutely hilarious when my mom first started texting me long diatribes with words spelled out completey! “Mom, you’re doing it wrong!”
But in this world of ADD, ADHD, and the 5-second sound bite, I have begun to agree with my mom that perhaps we are losing the gift of language because we aren’t forced to communicate anymore and to be frank, we don’t have the time, or make the time, for it. So, what’s the answer? Do we eliminate tools that were designed to help us? How do we re-engage our brains and make language a bigger piece of our everyday lives?