Texting overtakes phoning – and we're supposed to be surprised?

18th Jul 2012 | 14:52

Texting overtakes phoning – and we're supposed to be surprised?

Or: an ode to the text message

Ofcom's announcement this morning that texting is now a more popular form of communication than the phonecall is one big non shocker.

What's surprising is that this didn't happen earlier because texting has been the way many of us have flirted, made and broken plans and drunkenly confessed our undying love for each other for years. Even if today texting means emailing from our phones, IMing, Facebooking or Tweeting, the medium hasn't changed much.

Communications. Is there a less delicate word for what most of us use the text message for? Anyone who says that texting is impersonal can't possibly have sent or received many.

I'm not talking about those two-word logistical back-and-forths ("On my way", "Running late", "Wine pls"), I'm talking about the post-date afterglow, the short late-night note that lets you know someone's thinking about you, the in-jokes and even the outlandish ones that make your throw your phone across the room in frustration.

As a teenager, I literally transcribed my favourite messages from friends and boyfriends into a notebook which I swore to keep forever (I lost it, of course).

These little nuggets of thoughts and feelings were a lifeline to the people I thought were the most important people in the world. You can say things in a text message that you can't say out loud, especially when you're caught up in that heady cocktail of hormones and boredom.

Hanging on the telephone

Actually phoning someone has become rather an intimidating prospect for those of us brought up on a steady diet of text-based communications. I suspect it's a generational thing but as the first wave of people to grow up with mobile phones permanently in hand gets older, are we in danger of forgetting how to make a phone call?

Of course, the answer is no - that's as ridiculous as if someone had suggested that generations before us would forget how to write a letter.

But we've come full circle and we will again - it's not difficult to imagine how intimidating our parents' parents' found the original telephone after communicating only through letters and face to face.

Picture that big expensive mess of wires and handsets and speaking posts, a disembodied operator promising to connect you and then suddenly a voice you recognise in your ear talking to you in a whole new way. Then there's the awkwardness of both speaking at once and the delay of the crackling line causing a conversation consisting of not much more than repeated 'Pardon?'s.

Just as your first video call is intimidating and fairly embarrassing, those first phone calls must have been quite a thing to experience.

Writing letters may not have been forgotten but it has been cast aside, and being able to converse well over the phone is a skill that email, texting, IMing and social networking has displaced in the same way. But before long, something new will come along and we'll do the whole dance all over again.

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