With this text-addicted generation, it's possible to have an entire relationship without ever talking to the object of your affection.
Sarah Bowman: I remember when it first happened -- I was driving my daughter home from a softball game. She and several other ninth graders from the team were in the backseat. Suddenly, instead of giggling and gossiping, the girls were relatively silent. So much so that I could hear the sound of fingers flying over the keyboard of my daughter's cell phone. Text, text, pause. Silence ... Then, a jingle as a new text announced its arrival, and then all four girls collapsed into giggles again. My daughter worked that dreadful non-qwerty keyboard like a Morse code messenger in wartime, and soon another text came back, causing the girls to explode into delighted happiness again.
It didn't take me long to realize that a boy was on the other side of the furious exchange. Though my girl thought she was being secretive, all mothers have a Sherlock Holmes-ian ability to hear a few words from the backseat and grasp the whole story. Turns out, courtship is a completely public event these days -- and her girlfriends knew every nuance of the first moments of these two kids' decision to "go out." In the course of the first month, both kids racked up immense charges on their phone bills. (Note to all parents of teens -- without an Unlimited Texting plan, each romance threatens to empty the college savings account.) A few hundred dollars -- and some extra babysitting jobs later -- and the relationship had run dry. How did they break up? By text, of course.
It's common for parents to bemoan the digital generation as unable to communicate in real time. We whine about manners and protocol, even while we obsess over our own iPhones and BlackBerries. Were they stuck in a perpetual state of suspension between immediate gratification (text, text, text) and not knowing how to actually talk with one another? Her relationship with Boyfriend Number Two, who came along in her sophomore year, began by text as well. But to my delight, texting can lead to a normal, non-digital relationship. Proof? Our home telephone line is tied up in the late hours of each night, and the kids go on face-to-face dates just like we did when we first fell in love.
Texting still holds a primal purpose in the daily reality of their relationship. They are never really without one another. They are addicted to the comfort of tapping the screen and knowing that the other one is still there. Just like Pooh said to Piglet, all those storybooks ago: "Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. 'Pooh,' he whispered. 'Yes, Piglet?' 'Nothing,' said Piglet, taking Pooh's paw, 'I just wanted to be sure of you.'"
|Sarah Bowman is the Co-Founder of Kids Off the Couch.com. She has a BA in Semiotics from Brown University, worked in the film business as a studio executive before becoming a writer. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, and two teenagers.|