Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Trouble with Texting...



...is that there's always going to be someone texting much more than you. Tonight, after dinner and just before meeting my friend B who'd just flown in from Hong Kong and was leaving soon to relocate to New York, I dropped in for a round of drinks with a really eclectic group of friends sitting al fresco in Greenbelt.

J of a thousand texts

The minute I walked up to the table, the conversation turned to my recent blog entries about my textmate J, the guy of a thousand texts and a kilo of prime-grade Japanese beef. I'd written that we'd been having lots of fun exchanging a wide range of texts throughout the day for the past week. What exactly is a lot? They wanted to know.

I shrugged and gave a ballpark figure. I hadn't actually counted but it certainly felt like a lot. Perhaps 40+ texts a day?

That was when at least half the table scoffed at me for talking up so little. At 40 or so texts a day, I was told that J and I were well within ordinary, if not even below average texting range. I was miffed. Below average? Was there such a thing?

The numbers game

That was what triggered the very surreal scene of a whole table of people in Greenbelt, bent over their phones (which ranged from the latest iPhone to the Blackberry slide model), going cross-eyed counting the number of texts exchanged between themselves and another person. No one said anything but it was almost like a contest to see who would claim the title of heaviest texter -- particularly since most of the people present were incredibly competitive people who would happily lay claim to being number one in anything and everything -- even in the most inane things.

Finally, we had a winner. A couple -- freshly in love and smiling all the time -- who together counted 119 texts in one day alone. And that wasn't even the heaviest text day, they claimed; but it was among the heavier days in the last two weeks. They were pretty sure that there had been days when they'd texted 150 times a day or so, but they were just too tired to count more.

4.95 texts an hour

Everyone was silent for a moment as we tried to fathom what 119 texts a day meant. Then someone took out a calculator. "That's 4.95 texts an hour, or 1 text every 20 minutes for 24 hours," she said.

"What on earth do you text about if you're doing that much texting?" I asked them. "And I hope you're on some kind of unlimited text plan." (They weren't.)

They looked pretty amused to be asked this. "We don't really text things with much meaning," the girl said. "I usually text him the headlines first thing in the morning, since I know he's still asleep when I wake up." Then the guy said: "But since I got my new iPhone, it has the headlines automatically in one tap, so I don't really need the headlines by text. But I'm happy to get just any text from her. Once she even texted me about the pool man."

Text # 120 coming up...

Just then, the guy got up to get something at the bar. He was gone about 30 seconds when the phone of the girl next to me -- his girlfriend -- pinged. "You've got a message," I reminded her, and she looked at her phone. "Well, that's text # 120," she said, referring to her boyfriend. "He just sent me a text."

"But he's right over there," I said. I could see the guy standing by the bar across the room. "You're in the same restaurant and he's texting you?" I asked incredulously. "Whatever did he text about?"

She showed me her phone. It said: "I'm going to the bar. BRB." He must have texted it just before he stood up from her side to walk over to the bar. To them, texting is obviously the new way of conversation and communication -- even when they were together. And with that, I knew it was time to say goodbye to them and head off to see B. We had lots of catching up to do -- and fortunately, not just by text.

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