I’d like to thank my many readers who so kindly left comments on my recent post, “No Text Please, We’re Parents.”  Many of your comments described technophobic experiences with your own parents.  Quite a few of you agreed with my parents’ objection to texting as “impersonal.”

More than one comment mentioned that text-based messaging is rendering conversation a lost art.  When my parents visited for my birthday last weekend, they agreed, pointing out that abbreviations commonly used in text messages are destroying both written and spoken forms of the English language.  By way of example, my mother stated that it grates on her nerves when even radio personalities say “that’s how they do” (omitting the implied “it”).  My father cited the deplorable spelling and grammar that he regularly sees in email and on websites.

I tried to point out that any language changes and grows over time, adding new words and changing acceptable forms of grammar and spelling.  The English of Chaucer’s fourteenth century works and that of Shakespeare’s early seventeenth century works barely resemble each other, much less modern forms of English.

Every generation seems to bemoan the increasing informality of language embraced by their children.  Slang lingo has been a part of teenage culture since the dawn of time.  Kids seek to separate themselves from their parents by embracing vocabulary and grammar alien to their elders.  There was a time when the words “groovy” and “cool” annoyed adults; when I was growing up, it was considered “hip” to tack the word “man” on to the beginning or end of every sentence.  “What’s up, man?”  “Man, that sucks.”  And then there was the ultimate expression of disgust, disappointment, amazement, sympathy or any other emotion of the moment:  “Maaaaaaaaannnn!”

It’s nothing new for parents to believe that their children are destroying the English language.  And yet English soldiers on.

As for abbreviations, I fail to see much difference between today’s CUL8R or ILY and yesteryear’s SWAK and XYZ (“sealed with a kiss” and “check your zipper”).  And it is easy to forget that keystroke-saving abbreviations were rampant on the internet long before text messaging came into vogue.  When I first got online in the mid-1990s, I had to acculturate myself to a whole lexicon of BRBs, IMHOs and FWIWs.  These have found their way into the spoken language; I’ve heard people say “imho” and I myself have been known to say “bee ar bee!”

It is my belief that text messaging, both the kind on cell phones and the kind on the internet, brings people together rather than separating them.  Any form of language that makes it easier for people to communicate is, in my view, a positive development.

And so, I concluded my recent conversation with my parents by telling a story about some text-based communication that I enjoyed on Friday night.  In my goofy way, I took a photo of my dinner using my cell phone, typed the word “Yum!” and sent it to my nephews and nieces using SnapChat.  Every last one of them responded.  These are young people who won’t bother to call me and, likely as not, won’t answer their phones when I call them.  If I want to have much of a relationship with them, I need to be able to send and receive text and photos.  This is one of the main reasons I procured a cell phone in the first place.  So texting or SnapChatting them is my way of saying “I love you” and “I’m thinking of you.”

My niece’s response to my photo was particularly poignant.  “I love how you randomly Snap me!” was her text response.  We all feel loved when we know we’re thought of, now don’t we?

And if that’s “impersonal,” then I’ll take impersonal any day of the week, man.



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.