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Texting is The New Digital Divide

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2007-05-21 10:01:27     
Article by David Strom

I never thought when my mother first taught me touch typing back in elementary school that the skill would turn out to be anything but useful, but lately I am not so sure. There is a new digital divide coming, and it concerns those of us that can text and those that are still stuck in the 90s typing on our PCs.

I look with longing at the teens and 20-somethings that can compose long odes on their cell phones with ease. I think all those years messing with QWERTY and look where it has gotten me - an aging PC user who, like Scotty in the second (or was it thirdfourth) Star Trek movie, has to grab a keyboard to get anything really useful done on a computer. And I am sure that reference alone will date me anyway.

My attempts at texting usually are done in the presence of a member of the younger generation and usually end in dismal failure, when said youngster will grab my phone from me and with a few clicks of the buttons finish the message that has taken me several (seeming) hours to compose. I know my mom would be turning over in her grave seeing me struggle - she was proud of my typing skills back in the day. Now they don't even teach "typing" anymore. Sigh.

Yes, cell phones and PDAs now come with their own keyboards, and some of them you can actually type things in if you have small enough fingers or are patient and careful. But texting, sending short SMS messages via your phone, is even better, because you can do it to just about anyone with a phone and your correspondents can immediately send you back a pithy reply - if they are adept at texting, that is.

These days email is too slow - imagine waiting an hour or more before someone can compose and reply. It seems so quaint now. "You know, junior, back when I was young we thought it was pretty cool when we could email someone around the world and get an answer the Very Next Day!" And Instant Messaging isn't instant enough - you still need a PC or something like it to really manage your buddy list that quickly grows into the multiple dozens. Yes, today's divide is all about immediate gratification, and communication. Delays of a few seconds just won't do.

I came to this sad (at least, sad for me) conclusion this week when I was attending the New Communications Forum in Vegas this week, talking about the latest tech with podcasters, corporate bloggers, and other geeks extraordinaire. I witnessed a demo of Twitter, which is one of those texting apps that you put on your cell phone and you can tell a couple dozen of your closest friends exactly what you are doing at any given moment of the day, or night. Why bother going to sleep, when you can keep up with the 'hood? Who needs reality TV anymore, when we can manufacture our own so easy?

It is ironic that I came to this conclusion in Vegas. I mean, here I sit on a bench next to a replica of the Grand Canal, watching fake gondoliers steer boats that have their own electric motors down a waterway that exists entirely inside a (man-made) building. I had lunch with a friend of mine yesterday and the hostess asked us if we wanted to sit "outside," meaning at a table under a 50-foot painted sky with a view of the fake canal. Talk about the new realities of the digital divide.

So, don't text me your issues. I don't really want to know that quickly. Email is good enough for me. And those of you that can text fluently, go with grace.

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