My iPhone vibrates while the music is blaring, my friends are yelling, and the clock just hit midnight on a Saturday night. I reach into my pocket with one hand to grab my phone, and the other hand to share a toast to my roommate’s 21st birthday. I anticipate a text message from a close friend arriving to campus. Yet, when I look at the screen it reads, “Be good and safe, lve and tx MOM.” I am confused. Why is my mother texting me on a Saturday night? Does she know that I am not in the library, or is she just hoping that I am?
It fascinates me how some members of older generations are so amazed with technology. It seems to be their “secret key” in communicating with our generation and to be a part of who we are. Whether it be a 35 or 50-year-old who desires an iPad to be hip and feel relevant, or a grandmother who “friends” her grandchildren on Facebook, new means of technological communication is not just for us.
The interaction itself, though, varies greatly. There was a much greater appreciation it seems, for example, when my mother discovered the wonders of texting on her new Blackberry than when I, at the age of 16, began my texting habits. Her mannerisms while using her phone or her laptop hold a certain satisfaction and feeling of purpose that prevails over my own relaxed style.
I suspect that older users even thrice read their messages before sending, a kind of hold over from the days of letter writing.
A recent article authored by Kate Tuttle in the Boston Globe entitled “I Love You, Now Do Your Homework” examined the sometimes-odd issue of parental texting. According to that article, Pew Institute research and the experiences of professionals in child psychiatry, by texting their children, parents leave out the frequently negative tone that is presented in face-to-face dialogue that often leads to conflict. Further, parental texting can help younger people feel less embarrassed to respond (no one knows if you’re texting that cute girl in “Intro to Bio” or your mother).
When my mom began to text me during my freshman year at Boston College, at first it made me feel wildly uncomfortable. Beyond the wrongful use of abbreviations, during our first few conversations via text, I felt that my mother was entering a sacred territory.
Previously, texting had always been a special means of communication between my friends for topics both practical and inappropriate. In time, however, the value of this kind of communication appeared to me. Texting is always shorter and more direct than other means of communication; it is appropriate when time is precious.
My mom often sends me encouraging texts now and it is welcome. It feels similar to the notes I used to get with my lunch bag when I was in grade school. It is common for sons and daughters, myself included, to forget thinking before we speak to our parents—the beauty of texting is that it makes you do that. So that while I still do not usually appreciate those late night texts from mom, I have to remember that the ways we communicate, and not just members of my generation, are rapidly changing, and it’s is not necessarily negative.