Texting the waters

by david on October 20, 2010

Texting Etiquette

I’m constantly hearing about this disrespectful generation with their cell phones to their ears or their texting keyboards locked to their fingers. I was talking with a student the other day about something I thought was really interesting, the upcoming elections. She was sort of looking at me and her cell phone keyboard at the same time, which she was tapping on with blazing speed.

She finished what must have been an earth, shattering message and then gazed up at me with innocent, guilt free eyes and feigned a look of interest until I finished my monologue. She then nodded respectfully, said something remotely relevant to my topic and withdrew with a friendly wave.

My first reaction was, how disrespectful. That ignorant little twit did not give two cents about the wisdom I was imparting to her. When I thought about it a bit more I realized if I had been saying something remotely interesting she would have been paying attention to me. Her text message no matter how inane and unnecessary it may have seemed to me was obviously of more importance, at least to her, than what I was saying.

More significantly I realized the only thing different about her behavior and that of previous generations was her disinterest in what I had to say was more obvious. She was saying to me with her behavior, O.K. I will put up with you, but please don’t expect me to devote my entire attention to information so irrelevant to my life. We have taught this generation to multi task and now we don’t like it when we are part of their multitasking.

There was a time when polite teens would blankly stare at my face as if they really cared what I was saying when in fact they never heard nor cared. Which is worse? I guess I’d rather know when I was being boring rather than believe I was enthralling a totally disinterested, captive audience. I know this is true when I am teaching.

So now I use the texting of others not as a measure of a lack of respect, but rather as a measure of my relevance to the person I am trying to connect with. I can do one of two things. I can be upset with their poor manners or admire their honesty and raise the quality of my discourse to a more acceptable level. I know this will not sit well with my peers, but then again how often they let me ramble on while they feign interest in my boring babblings.

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