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Tame Your Message For The Medium

Posted by on December 2, 2011

Stand by for kvetching; this post has no instructional merit.

An awkward sideways view of my ghetto phone. Otherwise known as "drug-dealer phone."

I don’t text chat because I have a ghetto phone. I’ve had it for three years and I don’t want a new one, because getting a new one means having a smart phone and I already have a laptop, an ipad and an ipod. And because as much as I love having an ipod that also takes pictures and counts how many steps I run, and lets me see what time the sun sets, and lets me check out my calendar and play physics games, the last thing I want to do is talk on it or chat with it while I’m doing something else with it. I like having a phone that I can shut off now because my ipod is my new alarm clock. Back when I had no ipod to use as an alarm clock, I’d leave my phone on and set the phone alarm, but I’d invariably get angry when someone texted me before 9am or after midnight. I’d enforce my text hours by sending a sleepy angry text about how you shouldn’t text me early in the morning. Then the person would feel all burned and I’d have to explain about how I have these hours and they’re civilized hours and everyone should abide by them, because who the hell makes dates for two days later at 8:30 in the morning. (Yes, I once received an 8:30am offer for a date from a guy I met once on Craigslist who saw me three months later at a dance and who never bothered to follow up on the first date. Needless to say, I thought his text was very out of context and sent a text indicating such.)

I’ve managed to train most of my friends as to my preferences and habits, but it feels like training, and not like going with the flow. And then I go to the west coast and everyone in Chicago forgets to subtract two hours and we have to start all over again.

Now I just turn down my ringer until I need to use it or unless I’m waiting for an important call.

But when I get a text that says, “hey, how’s it going? i haven’t heard from u for a while” I cringe because a) I hate the use of the word “u.” and b) how the hell am I supposed to answer it in 160 characters or less on a phone that only does T9 word and won’t let me save to the dictionary so that I have to change “duck” to “fuck” and “shit” to “shiv” if I need to use expletives?

Perhaps I should simply distill my message down to a haiku as Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz did when he tweeted about quitting his job.

Perhaps my insistence on full sentences and proper spelling is holding me back.

Originally this post was conceived with the idea of describing how best to use different types of technology, how texts are better suited for making plans and flirtation, emails are good for sharing feelings without being interrupted and phones are good for back and forth discussions and making detailed plans. But the fact is, even after I write a perfect guide about the how best to communicate with your technology, invariably I will violate my own rules and  and then people will be confused about the terms of my communication.

The fact is, we control our technology but we forget that and let it control us.

I have a realtive who, when I call her, will answer her phone wherever she is and if she’s got her hands full, she’ll sound totally crazed and like she’s about to drop the phone while washing the cat and she’ll describe exactly what she is doing that makes it impossible to have a normal conversation and so I say, “Great, don’t answer. Call me back when you can talk.”

Alternately, I have a friend who doesn’t pick up the phone if she’s driving or washing her hair, but when she calls back 20 minutes later, apologizes immediately for not taking the call. I say, “No need to apologize. You were busy.”

I got another “how r u?” text tonight and I had the same reaction. This person has my email address and could very well write me an email, which would prompt a more eloquent reply on my part. But perhaps all he has time in his life to read is a haiku. Time to dust off my haiku chops.

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