Do new conveniences replace clarity?

By Nick Michalski |

Dad@hvn, ur spshl. we want wot u want &urth2b like hvn. giv us food &4giv r sins lyk we 4giv uvaz. don’t test us! save us! bcos we kno ur boss, ur tuff & ur cool 4 eva! ok?

Can we call this The New Lord’s Prayer? The traditional version of The Lord’s Prayer could be thought of as “stuffy,” even in it’s updated version. That is why the satirical Christian online magazine decided to “update” it and ran a competition to rewrite it in 160 characters or less, which is standard length of a mobile phone text message.

I couldn’t help but wonder, can my generation use the text message version and still get the message across?

We’ve already eliminated time-consuming traditions such as homemade mashed potatoes in favor of instant spuds. Boxed, microwaveable Asian dishes fill cupboards rather than a memorable evening out with a plate of steaming Pad Thai.

Why are those who support fast food, disposable cameras and rapid-dissolving teeth whitening strips skeptical of short hand, instant text communication?

Working from home is more popular than ever. Why? It saves time and money on traveling, it reduces traditional expenses such as eating out every day, wardrobe upkeep, gas, childcare, etc. No one ever complained on the diminishing art of home cooking, or the art of working in the office. What makes a diminishing vocabulary and social skills any different?

What happened to the traditional dictionary? Did we replace it with computerized spell-checks? This is the face of the future, ready or not.
The skills our parents learned in college prepared them to be self-sufficient, hard working and ambitious. What good do those traits do when a graduate of 2007 can speak into a microphone and have a program type out her diction? Is that a skill?

These new avenues of success are enabling companies to expand their markets, push more products and do so with less man-hours. With the launch of a new generation of mobile networks and “smarter” cell phones, such as the do-it-all iPhone, the skills that used to take years to acquire are now provided with purchase.

These amenities and short cuts developed in the past few years will be around for decades, merging into new forms and improving already seamless method of communication.

Society used to fear newspapers and the careers associated with newspaper production would become redundant with radio and TV availability. Now, we fear the language will be distorted into new-age hieroglyphs. Could text take over more of our expression because addicts simply find it easier than normal writing? Does this translate into liberation of our use of language?

In this new age of text messaging, experts point out that technology has put new emphasis on reading and writing.

“A generation ago, a teen who couldn’t read well could still participate pretty fully in the social conversations among peers,” Timothy Shanahan, president of the International Reading Association, said in a December 2006 article from Technology Review.

“But with so much written chatter, being able to read and write have become definite social advantages. There is simply much more pressure to know how to read than in the past when it comes to conversation, shopping, or work,” Shanahan said in the article.

Some say the fluency with which children speak in slang is a detriment to the social skills needed outside of peer conversation. Not so, says K. Baggot, author of the Technology Review article.

“Switching from language appropriate for text messaging to a linguistic mode more appropriate for addressing a teacher or writing an essay is a practice young people can easily be comfortable with,” Baggot said in the article. “A lack of opportunity to develop in multiple language modes could cause language to develop in one way among one group and make those kids unable to communicate with those who have developed multiple literacies.”

I love my cell phone and I love sending out messages. I do not believe that my shortcuts in texting caused me to lose any ability to write in English. If anything, it makes me think twice before I write out anything for my midterm paper.

I am in love with the express check-in at the Jet Blue terminal at JFK. I can’t wait to have an iPhone available at T-Mobile. I cried for a whole week after super-time-saving Concorde flights were canceled between Europe and the States. I simply cannot live without my microwaveable “Chinese in the box” (I’d starve to death with no time for cooking). I would be miserable without my ready to shop-n-sell online mega huge store and I couldn’t imagine living without a Sidekick.

After all, everything is for humans and if only we can find the balance, stay sane and moderate, texting will not hurt anyone or anything.

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