No Text Please, We’re Parents

When I visited my parents recently, I sat down with my mother to show her photos on my iPhone.  There were photos from Thanksgiving, from Hanukkah and from my father’s eightieth birthday celebration, along with pictures from back in the summer — some really good shots I took of our family Fathers’ Day brunch in Los Angeles and my nephew’s college graduation dinner.

Although my mother enjoyed the photos, the problem, she says, is that they’re not real.  You can’t touch them, put them in an album, let them gather dust in a closet until you pull them out for special occasions.

I assured her that the photos can be printed and that we would make this happen.

After we got home, I emailed the photos to my wife, who uploaded them to  For about three dollars, Wal-Mart printed them and mailed them out to my parents.

They called yesterday to tell us that the prints had arrived and how much they like them.  Now my mother says she’ll have to buy a digital camera so that she can connect it to her PC with a cord and then upload her photos to Wal-Mart for printing.

I once again urge my parents to get rid of their prepaid TracFones and finally purchase smart phones, but as always, my pleas are rebuffed.  They don’t need a smart phone, they tell me.  They don’t even use all the minutes on their TracFones.  Every year, they renew their subscriptions and they still have a big pile of minutes left.  The only time they even use a cell phone is when one of their children call while they’re in FoodMaxx or Home Depot.

I try to tell them that smart phones are not really about making phone calls.  Wouldn’t you like to be able to get directions from anywhere you are?  “We have a Garmin in the car for that.”

Wouldn’t you like to be able to snap pictures and send them to people immediately?  Wouldn’t you like to be able to play whatever music you want, whenever you want?  Wouldn’t you like to be able to look up anything on the internet wherever you are?

No, no and no.  They don’t need to do any of those things.

What about texting?  We could text each other all the time.

“That’s so impersonal,” my mother says.  “It’s like you don’t want to talk to the person.”

“No, it’s not impersonal,” I argue.  “I text my sister and she responds whenever it’s convenient.”

“It’s just typing.  It’s not the same as talking to a person.”

I give up.  We’ve been through this texting discussion before, and I get absolutely nowhere every time.  My mother feels that if I want to talk to her, I should just call and talk to her.  After all, she has a cell phone now so I can call even if they’re out shopping.  Heck, my parents each have their own cell number, so they can call each other and argue when they get separated in WinCo.  And they have a phone in the master bedroom and in the kitchen and even out in the garage where they can run in and answer it if they’re outside planting and digging and mowing when it rings.  What more do you need?

Sigh.  I guess I could have mentioned that my mother-in-law has a smart phone and that she texts with her children and grandchildren every day.  I could have mentioned that our extended family now consists mostly of the younger generation, with whom it’s text or nothing.  I could have mentioned that they are able to pick up his ‘n hers smart phones for a song and that service contracts don’t cost that much anymore if you forgo all the bells and whistles.

But I know I’d just make her irritated and that, in the end, I’d lose the argument no matter what I said.

So I guess my parents will continue to be the only important people in my life to whom I will still be unable to send a text message just to say “I love you.”

And I know that the next time I call them on their TracFones, they’ll be out shopping for a digital camera.


218 thoughts on “No Text Please, We’re Parents

  1. My father finally joined #teamiPhone when he found out he could use e-bay anytime he wants because of it. He does text too, although it’s not possible to send him a simple “love you” text.

    Example text from my father:

    “Dear Daughter,

    I am texting you from the train on this beautiful morning! The snow is falling and the sun is shining, but it is chilly outside! I’m glad I bought these new mittens; they are double lined and perfect for today! Did you know how hard it was to find a semi-colon on this phone? It’s not in the same spot as on a computer! Who can I write to correct this?!

    Love you much,


  2. I myself believe that texting is not as nice as making a phone call. Some people I know invite people to some of their biggest parties over texting. If I ever organised a party I would call the person I invite, atleast twice, once when I invite and once before the event just to make sure they are going to turn up. I guess I need to update myself on the latest happenings around the world! But I like how your parents think 😉

    • I see what you mean, Deb. Some people do even worse things than that, such as dumping boyfriends and firing employees over text messages. While text messages are convenient, I must admit that they are not the same as hearing someone’s voice. So much can get lost in translation! Thanks so much for your comment.

      • That’s true! I know some people who do those things just because they want to avoid confronting the person and the situation and feel this is the easy way out, but don’t realise how difficult it is for the other person to bear because they can’t express their feelings in the same manner. Anyway, I am glad you agree! 🙂

  3. Not everyone needs a smart phone-I’m 16 and don’t even want a regular phone. I only have an iPad so I can upload my art.
    I get where you’re coming from, but I use mapquest and write down directions, call whoever I want to talk to, and use a digital camera for pictures. I don’t want my life to be in a little device that’s so easily lost, and I don’t think people should be pressured to get one.

    • I certainly agree that no one should feel pressured to use technology with which they are not comfortable. While eschewing certain modes of technology can make one feel “left out,” let us not forget the value of time-honored, low-tech communication. Thanks so much for reading and love your screen name!

      • At least your parents keep their cell phones turned on. As soon as my parents finish a call, they shut the phone off. Making it extremely frustrating to reach them. Sigh.

    • Glad you could relate! Any technology has a learning curve, which I suspect may be steeper or the older generation. When it comes to software apps, I certainly do not know a fraction of what my nieces and nephews do! Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  4. It’s interesting how writing used to be a form of romance, and now their are generations that look at texting as a way of distancing yourself. While other generation look at texting as a courtesy, by not interrupting the life of the person you are trying to reach and also giving them the ability to respond at their own convince. Too funny.

    • As writing, including the text message, is more permanent than a voice conversation, I wonder whether it fosters accuracy? It is interesting how some say that text messages can be misinterpreted in a way that phone conversations cannot… I would think it’d be the other way around! Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  5. Your parents are just comfortable with their lifestyle and aren’t eager for any change. I guess most of us would be like this someday, when we will be old and grey, winning arguments with our kids 🙂

    • I think you’re right about most of us preferring to remain within our comfort zones, Aisha. My niece tells me that when her baby starts growing up I must writer her letters so that she does not lose out on the joys of that low-tech medium! Thanks so much for visiting my blog.

  6. I’m on the side of the dinosaurs, one of those oldies who don’t have a smart phone, I do, however, have what you might term a “dumb” phone ie a mobile phone that I use for making phone calls and sending texts. If I want to listen to music or watch pictures I can switch on a radio or TV.

    • The only problem I have with radio and TV is that one must choose from available offerings. Thanks to my smart phone, I have the music that *I* want to hear available all the time and I am not at the mercy of what advertisers would like to foist upon me. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  7. Honestly, I don’t blame your parents. I have a smartphone and not only do I not use all the minutes or whatever else is on them, I feel like smartphones are making a lot of people really stupid. Setting aside the inherent hazards of driving while in-text-icated or the irritation caused by people who text while walking, only to stop abruptly and randomly as though the world were in orbit around them…the abbreviations are finding themselves into other outlets so that people don’t even know how to write/spell properly anymore. And can I just say that I think your mother is a very smart lady – I couldn’t agree more about how impersonal texting is. My father has fully embraced all the techy stuff – which means no more hand-written birthday cards but just a missive that looks like it could’ve come from Al Bundy for all its (lack of) personalized qualities. Speaking as someone who’s lost half a dozen family members in the last few years, believe me that when it’s all said and done and they’re gone forever, you won’t be thinking, oh that was a great text – you’ll be looking at pictures and hand-written notes…

    • You make some great points, Alex. Much has been written about the hazards of texting. And I certainly agree that texting and the abbreviation culture it has spawned tends to reduce the English language to its lowest common denominator. Thank you so much for your thoughts. I hope you return to visit in the future.

      • You know, I was reading somewhere not too long ago that, apparently, due to social media and smartphones, people are having fewer and fewer interactions that actually take place in a face to face situation. A few years ago, an acquaintance of mine ended up getting all angry and worked up because I didn’t respond to her three million texts a day as soon as they were sent – like I have nothing better to do LOL I mean, pick up the phone, you know? 🙂

  8. I have been struggling with my dear mom to get her a smart phone but to no evil she hates them they are too complicated for her.
    Thank you for sharing I enjoyed it.
    Best regards

    • It seems that many in the older generation don’t feel that they are missing out on anything by not being “down with” the latest technology. I guess everyone has his or her own style! Thanks so much for reading and for your comment.

    • Oh, you are so right. I’ve pretty much resigned myself to just accept things as they are. Fortunately, I do enjoy talking to my parents on the phone. 🙂 Thanks so much for visiting A Map of California!

  9. People functioned for thousands of years without smart phones. We still don’t need them and we can still get by without them just fine, although it may not be as convenient. It’s a shame that we can’t live without them; that we aren’t happy unless our face is in front of a screen. Without a smart phone, you can still make a phone call, and hell you can still text. You can still send e-mails from your computer. Honestly it’s less effort than sending a text. You can bring back the lost art of letter writing. It’s nice to be able to have pictures in a photo album and it’s nice to use a film camera, because the pictures will always be better and have so much more feeling behind them. We’ve forgotten how to live without our damn smart phones, and we can’t communicate like normal people anymore.

    • Interesting comment, thank you! I do believe that, over time, what constitutes “normal” constantly changes. I love your idea about bringing back the “lost art of letter writing!” I promise to write a separate post just on that subject. I appreciate your visit and hope you’ll return to A Map of California often!

    • I think it’s become rather common, judging by the comments I have received on this post. By all means, let me know if you figure out a way to convince your parents to try texting! Thanks so much for reading.

    • Oh yeah, me too! When I listen to my nephews and nieces talk about the technology they use, they make me feel as if I live in a cave and paint my messages onto the walls. Thanks so much for visiting A Map of California. I hope to see you here again soon!

  10. I identify with your mom. I know how to text, I have an iPad, I use the computer all day and work on many web sites. But when I talk to my kids I’d rather “talk” to them. I, too have a trackfone. It’s cheeper than a smart phone. My ipad does everything I need. I can text, facetime with my son in China.
    With so many ways to communicate, we all develop our favorite or best way and we need to respect the most direct lines of communication, face to face and listening and talking over a phone. These are truly the best because you can see the body language in face to face and hear the tones of voice over the phone. I call these multi dimensional communication. Whereas texting, facebooking, tweeting, etc are all flat communication. The message may be nice and warm and fuzze but you only see the words, you see and hear nothing else so it is flat and impersonal. Just my thoughts!

    • As I work in the customer service industry, I do appreciate the (as you say) multidimensional nature of being able to listen to voice inflection or observe body language. Text messages are good for some things and not so good for others. I agree with you that it behooves us to respect each person’s preferred methods of communication. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. Please visit A Map of California again!

  11. I feel your frustration. Only it’s not my parents who don’t text. It’s hubby. He DESPISES texting.
    I understand it can feel impersonal and he is right; easier isn’t always better. I can’t even put my finger on exactly why texting actually FEELS easier than an email, because in reality they are probably the same. I can only say that marketing is powerful. ;p Nice post.

    • When having a back-and-forth discussion, it is easy to keep a single text message thread open. It is more time-consuming to keep opening each individual email. So I think maybe that’s where the difference lies. Thanks so much for visiting my blog!

  12. Loved this. Simple and sweet, it offers food for thought. 🙂
    Agreed, smartphones ARE convenient. And I must admit, for a short period of time, I toyed with the idea of asking for one. But now I feel that using smartphones indeed pressurizes you to keep up with all the new apps and “stay in touch” with people. You know what I mean?
    Being a teenager, I would know. Often my friends accuse me of not being “social” enough. What explain to them is, I don’t need a smart phone to do that.
    Getting another gadget just because I can doesn’t sound reasonable. At times, I feel it’s more satisfying to do things the “old-fashioned” way, like speaking to the locals when I get lost somewhere or things like that. I feel it adds to the small moments in life, moments at which you would look back and go, “Sigh…”, with this half-smile on your face.
    Oh, and I’m new to WordPress. I would love tips, guidance, comments and feedback!

    • Well, welcome to WordPress! The best blogging tip I have to offer is to “just do it.” You don’t have to plan out each post in advance, although some bloggers do. I prefer to just open a MS Word document and start typing. Get your ideas and opinions down in type, even it it’s very stream of consciousness style. You can go back and edit when you’re done. I constantly surprise myself when I start on one line of thought and, by the time I’m done, discover that I actually intended to say something quite different! I try to post every day, which can help to develop a readership. Also, don’t forget to use topic tags so that your posts are more easily found by those typing terms into search engines. Best of luck to you and please let me know if you need help with anything! It would be my pleasure.

  13. Oh my. My grandparents are the only people (they are in their eighties so I give them some leniency) who don’t text. My grandmother says the very same thing you mother does, “Its just so impersonal.” I would have to agree. I have recently been blogging about this very topic in fact. I urged my readers to pick up the phone and use it the way God intended, rather than as a text or social media tool. That was in a post this morning. To my utter surprise, a dear old friend CALLED me today from out of the blue, at the prompting of my blog to reach out to someone today! It was such a treat, and I have to say, so much more personal than the zillions of texts. I might be with your mom on this one.

    • Like your grandparents, my parents have reached the age of eighty, which I do think factors in to their lack of desire to try texting. As much as I love the convenience and succinctness of texting, I totally agree that it can never substitute for a phone call or visit! Thanks so much for commenting today. I hope you return to A Map of California to visit again.

  14. Loved this post. I am not as old as your parents (I’m 59), and I do have a Smart Phone, and I have to admit I love it – I use the camera quite a lot, but I download the pics and save them often. I do, however, share your parent’s disdain for texting. Even my wife texts, but everyone knows to get a hold of me they have to call me ‘live’.

    • One thing I like about texting is the speed of it. I can send a text and then go on my merry way. Message is conveyed and I’m not stuck on the phone with someone. In my parents’ case, phone conversations tend to go on for an hour or more. In the case of others, I can avoid lengthy conversations about other topics by simply typing “Leaving now. See you about 3.” Since I am unable to do this with my parents, I generally skip it all together. They are free to guess what time we left and what time we will arrive. I simply won’t risk a lengthy phone conversation just for that. Ultimately, I think it is my parents, not I, who lose out.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

  15. Though I’m just twenty I share the belief of your parents. I’ll hate myself if I started texting my parents instead of talking to them on phone. Its like losing the opportunity of talking to them.

    • Not really. I call my parents once a week. Mom likes to talk for an hour, and I let her. I don’t have time to do this every day, so she loses out on the little day-to-day stuff that I text to everyone else and rarely remember when we’re on the phone for our marathon. I believe that calling and texting both have a place.

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

      • Both have a place. I actually meant only texting to parents would be cruel. If it’s texting and calling it’s nice.

  16. Reblogged this on jamilamimi and commented:
    My mom is 87 yrs old and i gave her a samsung note, so i can contact her more often but it didn’t work because it was always inside the drawer and she claimed she doesn’t have to learned to use it,its so complicated. though after few months she slowly learned how to use it and calls me every now and then. She now use “Tango” and have her own Facebook account too 😉

    • Wow, that’s wonderful, Jamil! Even at your mom’s age, think of all the new friends she can make and the old friends she can keep up with on Facebook. So glad you encouraged her to at least try out the technology!

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  18. Add my name to the long list of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, who loathe looking at photos on an iPhone…even worse- being held captive in a restaurant being forced to look at your photos (yawn) on your laptop.,,Zzzzzz

    • I don’t think anyone enjoys feeling obligated to look at photos that they care nothing about. And that applies whether they are on a laptop, an iPhone or neatly mounted in an album. I like the use of the word “loathsome!”

      Thanks so much for stopping by my blog.

  19. I have to say, I’m one of the few people I know without a smartphone. I just can’t afford it. I used to have a prepaid GoPhone and it was $100 for the whole year (I hardly used it so always had minutes leftover). I upgraded to a regular plan when my kids left for college and they needed phones. But I know people who are spending over $200 a month for their family plans, data plans, etc. on their smartphones and I just can’t see spending that much for a phone. That’s a car payment 🙂

    • I think you are so right to carefully consider the cost of a smart phone contract before committing to that kind of money. Some service providers gouge their customers and some customers pay a lot more than they really need to. The bottom line is that not everyone can afford a smart phone, regardless of how convenient it may be. And that’s something I totally understand. I never even had a basic cell phone until a few years ago. I always insisted that I didn’t need it. It’s important to distinguish between wants and needs when budgeting one’s money.

      Thanks so much for your comment and for reading. I hope you will visit again soon.

  20. Laughing out loud as I’m reading…thinking of a conversation I had with my mom who refused to use the smartphone we gave her and gave it away. Good story!

  21. Great post. I see both sides of it. I think the older population feels a lack of respect for the way they are used to doing things. They don’t want to learn any new technology. It’s hard work staying current and when I try my teenage children roll their eyes. But I keep trying! And I too make photo prints for my parents!

    • I know what you mean! When I think of how difficult it is for me to keep up with the technology habits of my nieces and nephews, I can’t imagine how exponentially more difficult the whole technology thing must be for my parents. After all, my father loves to tell the story about how, when he was a kid, the telephone had a crank instead of a dial, and how turning that crank caused an operator to answer with “num-bah please!”

      Thanks so much for visiting and for your comment.

    • Thanks so much for the reblog, Romy! Although all of us are different, I do think the members of each generation tend to share certain general characteristics, at least partly due to the environment of the world in which they grew up.

      I hope to see you around A Map of California often!

  22. Reblogged this on aaderinto and commented:
    Hahahhahah typical of grannies.
    my parents are 69 and 75 but they both have smartphones. They both use whatsapp and BBM. ( can you beat that?). Mum told me a few days ago she would soon sign up on facebook.

    • It’s easy to forget that things that are obvious to us may not be so obvious to those who are unfamiliar. Still, even though my parents wouldn’t think of using Facebook or Twitter, I was amazed to learn that they actually know what those are!

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I appreciate your visit.

  23. Reblogged this on So Syd Says and commented:
    This is great! Sometimes I miss the simplicity of days gone by (I’m only 36!) and actually hearing a friendly voice on the phone- someone who’s called just to say “hi”.

    • Hi Syd, and thank for reading! I think there will always be nostalgia for a simpler time. Recently, my 17 year old niece (who grew up on rap but has started to appreciate doo-wop music) griped at me about the world having become so horrible when it was so simple and pure back in the 1950s and 1960s. I had to disillusion the poor girl. 🙂

      I agree that there is no substitute for the sound of the human voice and the touch of the human hand. Thanks so much for the reblog and for your comment. Please come back to visit A Map of California often!

  24. I don’t know how old your parents are but I have an i phone and I still hate texting. I wasn’t brought up with it and I would rather speak to the person than type to the person any say of the week. Everyone has become so impersonal it is sicking. Sorry but I am on their side .

    • I think many would agree with you, Nona. My parents have just turned eighty years old, so they’ve spent most of their lives without access to today’s technology. I, too, am old enough that I was brought up without cell phones and texting. In fact, I never even had a cell phone until just a few years ago. I always thought I didn’t need one, but I finally realized that if I am to have a decent relationship with my nieces and nephews, I had to learn to text. I could have insisted that they call me, and then I’d never speak to them. In the case of my parents, I do call them, but only once a week. If they were to learn to text, I’d contact them daily, A daily phone call is out of the question, as it is nearly impossible to get my mother off the phone in less than an hour.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting! I hope you return to visit A Map of California often.

  25. Thanks for the great blog about technology and parents, at-least your parents do text occasionally, my dad doesn’t even text, all he does he does is presses the green button to answer/make the call and red to end the call.

    • Actually, my parents do not text at all. They say they don’t know how and don’t want to know how. But I know what you mean about our parents’ generation often being very basic regarding technology. I suppose I should be grateful that my parents are willing to carry cell phones with them. I think their favorite phone is secretly the baby blue rotary dial wall phone in their garage. I got that one from the phone company when I was just out of college, about 35 years ago. 🙂

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I hope you will come back to visit often.

  26. Great post.
    My mom still has a flip phone, refuses to text, and loves to leave a voicemail that simply say, “hey it’s mom, call me”.
    I’ve tried explaining to her how annoying it is to listen to that voicemail, but I realize that someday I will miss her voice so I don’t give her too much grief over it.

    • Very well said! My parents have now reached the age of 80 and I need to remind myself to cherish every moment I have with them. It is sad to think that I will miss their voices one day. But then again, if they did text, I probably would miss that too eventually.

      Thanks very much for visiting and for your kind comment.

  27. Your parents have the right idea. Life was so simple without all the gadgets and people were really connected on a personal level.

    • I’m not so sure about that. For example, my young nieces and nephews, who are into all manner of technology, like to use an app called SnapChat. Take a photo, add text if you want, and the recipient can view it for ten seconds before it disappears. On Friday, I sent my nieces and nephews a SnapChat photo of my dinner. Kind of mundane. But you know what? Every last one of them sent me back a SnapChat. My niece (God bless her) typed “I love how you randomly Snap me!” It’s just my way of saying “I’m thinking about you and I love you” and they know it. What are my chances of receiving a call from any of them? Exactly zero. Half the time that I call them, they don’t even answer. The facts are simple: THEY DON’T WANT TO TALK. They want it quick and simple, and that’s what texting and SnapChat does. The technology enables us to connect on a personal, and even touching, level. So no, I don’t think that my parents are right. There are more ways to reach out and touch someone than just with one’s voice.

      Thanks so much for visiting my blog and for your comment!

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  30. The problem for your parents (and other seniors) is that the bar has been raised, and those who don’t have the right “equipment” can no longer jump over it. They are given the ultimatum: get with it, or lose touch with all those whom you love. That is so WRONG on a host of levels, and the younger generation (or whomever is pushing it) should be absolutely ashamed of themselves. Convenience should not drive meaningful relationships. It misses the point.

    Let’s not even get started with the public school system and how this new technology-based communication has left MILLIONS to get with the program just for equal access; it’s quite sad to see people hock their futures just for even a cheap internet connection at home — because it’s the new norm. Never mind the smart phone or the PC. The bar has been raised, but to whose gain exactly?

    I’m with your parents. Huzzah. That and flipping through a little book of favorite photos is so much…happier. 🙂

    • I am really rather divided on this issue, Shannon. I do believe that technology has a place at the table, but I don’t believe that it is the be-all and end-all. I believe in multiculturalism, and let us not forget that our methods of communication are surely as much a part of our culture as the languages we speak and write. I recognize that low-tech communication methods (calls, letters, personal visits) are as much out of the comfort zone of the younger generation as high-tech communication methods (email, texting, Facebook, Twitter) are out of the comfort zone of our elders. Whether we like it or not, it devolves to we middle-aged people to play the role of interpreters and intermediaries by achieving fluency in both paradigms. We need to take this as an honor rather than as a burden. Already I am beginning to experience some of what my parents feel, as I am not at all up on all the technology the kids are using. As soon as I get the hang of Twitter and SnapChat, here comes Vine and Instagram. Finally, let me add that some technology platforms have helped to bridge the “new generation gap.” For example, Facebook did this where MySpace failed. And then there is the latest bridge that, with its easy GUI, is playing a major role in facilitating communication between all of us. You guessed it: WordPress.

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