Text messaging has its share of pros, cons

Well, we are just recently back from our wedding summer tour so I can get back into the column.
Our travels took us all the way out to Calgary, Vancouver, and Victoria, and during this time in these bigger centres I noticed something that’s not so apparent in Fort Frances: cellphones really are everywhere.
While we were in Alberta, people were complaining about having to dial the area code for local calls—this new requirement being made because Telus quite simply ran out of phone numbers.
In B.C., I had the privilege of being the best man at my friend’s wedding and as guests filtered in to Victoria from around Canada and the U.S., there was a steady chorus of beeps and tones and jingles (not even rings) as people text messaged each, trying to meet up with each other and co-ordinate things.
It probably was the texting that was most striking. When cellphones first emerged, it was people with the ever-shrinking devices pressed to their ears, sharing the details of their lives with anyone who happened to be in ear shot.
Now it seems everywhere (well, maybe not quite everywhere) you look, there is someone focusing all their energy and attention on a tiny screen.
Once I began to notice all the activity going on around texting, I soon became aware of the phenomena in news articles and discussions about the technology in a social/cultural sense.
The one big news item related to texting was that cellular service providers wanted to start charging their customers for messages they received in addition to the fees they already charged for sending a message.
This, of course, raised a big controversy because people naturally do not want to pay for something that they didn’t pay for before, and also because it is a bit unprecedented.
It would be like charging someone to send a letter and then charging the person on the receiving end when it was delivered.
I haven’t heard anything about any legal action on the issue but it seems only a matter of time before some group takes some kind of action.
On the socio-cultural front, there was a quirky news item that caught my attention stating that a number of best-selling books in Japan over the past year were text message based.
Now I’m not sure if this means they were delivered using the messaging technology, sort of like an e-book, or if they actually were written using the text shorthand.
For anyone who has not been exposed to text messaging, you can well imagine that it would be painful to try and write a message using your thumbs on a tiny keypad.
The solution that’s evolved is to create shorthand expressions to communicate longer words or even whole phrases (I am sure everyone at least knows LOL).
And I almost think these books the story was talking about referred to books written entirely in this sort of new language (if anyone has any clarification on this news item, please let me know).
This whole business of shorthand writing has led into other discussions surrounding the technology—primarily that this text language is dumbing people down.
The main concern you will hear regards younger people immersing themselves in the technology, and that they will lack development of skills in the areas of grammar and spelling.
I have not seen any serious studies looking deeper into this issue, though I suppose you can see where there might be some cause for concern.
On the other side of the issue, proponents of the technology would, I’m sure, argue that the text vernacular is an additional skill the next generation will have in addition to the skills the education system is meant to provide.
Hopefully this is a good lead-in to the technology of text messaging. I think next week I’ll probably talk a little more about it because judging by how prolific it is in other centres, it’s only a matter of time before it catches on in our own neck of the woods.
As such, I think it would be useful talk a bit more about what the big deal is.
If you have any comments, the e-mail address is megabites@fortfrances.com
Troy L’Hirondelle is a programmer and systems administrator at Times Web Design.

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