The Subtext Of Texting

April 11th, 2009  |  Published in huffington post


By Stinson Carter

Go to any bar in any major city on a busy night, look around, and you’ll see more hands on PDA’s and cell phones than you’ll see on cocktails.

It used to be that if you tried to talk to someone, you only had to compete with the other people in the bar for their attention. Now, you also have to compete with whoever that person is texting–and usually it’s a few people.

We are having distracted bits and pieces of conversation via text to people who aren’t with us, which of course makes us have distracted bits and pieces of conversation with the people who are. We all go about our lives now with one foot in the invisible realm of our e-social lives. Admit it, if you’re out with a friend and they get up to go to the bathroom, the first thing you do is reach instinctively for your PDA/phone, when you used to just sit idly and people-watch. Because even when it’s quiet, it never stops whispering at you from your pocket or your purse: “cheeeeck meeeee. I could be that person who blew you off, finally coming to my senses. I could be that work email you’ve been waiting for. I could be that invitation to something better than where you are now.” It whispers, it calls to us, it is both our social wellspring and the black hole devouring The Now.

I am just as guilty of this as anyone; the vague “yeah’s and uh-huhs” I give people sitting next to me as I try to finish off a text, the endless checking and re-checking for responses, all of it. So the challenge I level now is for myself as much as it is for everyone else: try existing for a night without your phone and see what happens. See how much more you focus on the taste of the wine, or the food, and the person you’re sharing it with. See how much more likely you are to notice the smiling glance across the room, or listen to the story the old regular is telling his glass of whiskey. That phone or that PDA is all past and future tense, and no present. And if the present is the only thing that really exists and our texting habits are allowing us to disregard it, then doesn’t that mean that we are ceasing to exist?

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