08 November 2012


Did you know that, in 2010, the average American teenager sent over 3000 text messages per month? (See here). That means about 100 message a day. And, presumably, the number is even higher today.

Is that problematic? Is it undermining their ability to do their homework and participate in other more creative activities? Or does it, instead, reflect a natural sociability and creativity in a vibrant, every-evolving medium?

When my two children were teenagers, they spent hours every day on the phone. In many ways, texting is an improvement. First, it doesn't block up the phone line like it used to. Second, it is possible to do other things, like homework, while intermittently answering text messages. In comparison, talking on the phone seems to be more disruptive. Third, it is creative, and the use of abbreviations, emoticons, and novel ways of expressing oneself through short messages is quite impressive.

As an old fogey, I can't get the hang of it. I probably, on average, send about two or three text messages a month. And I am maybe the only person in the world who uses standard spelling and full sentence grammar when I text. But then nobody has ever accused me being modern and keeping up with the times!

As a linguist, I celebrate the playful creativity of texting, even if I don't seem to be able to participate in it too well myself.