Thursday, June 09, 2005

Rheingold Pt. 1: The Silence of Text Messaging

Until I read the April 2003 Reason interview with "cyberculture chronicler" Howard Rheingold, I must admit that the appeal of text messaging remained a mystery to me. The reason: If I can't enter the words in as fast as I think, I lose interest in the message. I always thought to myself, isn't this why we have keyboards? So we don't have to slow our brains down just to etch out a sentence? Combined with the rates Sprint wants to charge me per text message, the only reason I could imagine text messaging's appeal was if I was organizing the types of revolutionary protests and riots that would free me and my brethren from the likes of a tyrannical government.

Well, as it turns out, I'm a little off-base. Rheingold makes a simple, but important, observation: This kind of communication is not just fast, it's silent. "Your parents and teachers can't hear you," he explains.

No wonder my friends carry out conversations with me while their eyes glued to their cell-phone screens and their thumbs around the keypad like it was a Nintendo controller. It's sleek. It's silent. It's mobile. It's fast, like a phone call but less invasive and with a wider reach.

For this reason, the phone tree, which was the epitome of organized communication in my middle-school days, has quickly been replaced among the younger generations. Sorry, Mr. Phone Tree, you were just too darn slow and loud.

The only question remains: when can we replace phone banks?

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