“Is texting bringing us closer to the end of life as we currently tolerate it?... In some respects, texting is a giant leap backward in the science of communication. It’s more efficient than semaphore, maybe, but how much more efficient is it than Morse code? With Morse code, to make an 's' you needed only three key presses. Sending a text message with a numeric keypad feels primitive and improvisational--like the way prisoners speak to each other by tapping on the walls of their cells in 'Darkness at Noon,' or the way the guy in 'The Diving Bell and the Butterfly' writes a book. And, as Crystal points out, although cell phones keep getting smaller, thumbs do not. Usually, if you can text a person you can much more quickly and efficiently call that person. But people sometimes text when they are close enough to talk face to face. People like to text. Why is that?”Because, dummy, in Third World countries texting is way cheaper than calling. And if what's going to be said is nothing more than “heloh poh, wer na u, hir na meh,” why bother ringing up?
Scott McLemee of Inside Higher Ed, quoting David Crystal’s new book Txtng: The Gr8 Db8 (Oxford University Press), gets the economic argument and pooh-poohs the panic:
“Beyond its utilitarian value of permitting users to say as much as they can in as few keystrokes as possible (which also means saving money) the language of texting is a manifestation of 'the human ludic temperament,' as Crystal puts it. That is, it is a form of play: something closely associated with the process of learning to use language itself. Pace the alarms occasionally raised about how texting undermines literacy, Crystal cites recent studies showing that pre-teen students who text had standard language skills equal to or better than those of non-texters...While we're on the subject of initialism: How about HHWWMMPSSP? (“holding hands while walking sa Megamall, me pa-swing-swing pa”)
“The idiolect of texting is not just a response to the limitations of the medium but the product of basic, ordinary processes found in other forms of communication... The most obvious case is initialism--with AWOL, ASAP, and SNAFU, for example, having long since become so commonplaces that practically replace the phrases they condense. E-mail revitalized the practice with expressions such as IMHO ('in my humble opinion') and ROTFL ('rolling on the floor laughing'). Since then, texting and instant-messaging have turned initialism into a kind of competitive sport--with someone coining ROTFLMAOWTIME ('rolling on the floor laughing my ass off with tears in my eyes').”