Friday, July 25, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Chick Wit: Texting: It takes a textbook

I'm loving texting, and I'll tell you why.

I need more stress in my life. I like my blood pounding in my veins, pressing against my arterial walls, transforming me into a walking pressure cooker.

Thank you, texting.

Let me take you back in time, friends.

I remember when there were things called letters, and in law school, I recall specifically waiting for a letter from a guy I had a crush on. We were dating, but he went away for the summer, and then he never wrote. I actually checked the mail, every day. But no letters.

Face it, letters sucked.

But then, when I became a lawyer, the fax machine came along. To send a fax, we had to go down to the windowless bowels of the firm to a ring of hell called the Word Processing Department, which contained a highly underappreciated and undoubtedly underpaid group of women.

Faxes used to be called facsimiles, and they came hot out of the machine, like you were baking at the office. We used to fax our lunch orders, which is the kind of thing that lawyers think is badass, and also I was dating somebody who used to send me poetry by fax. It didn't last until the advent of e-mail, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Computers came along, then the Internet, then e-mail, which is now antique.

Back in the day, people would brag about how much e-mail they got. Cool people got the most. By that time I had become an author, albeit a struggling one, and I heard from authors who got like 50 readers' e-mails a day.

I got no e-mail except for spam, and back then, I even liked spam. This was before Viagra, which overstayed its welcome.

But soon we came to understand that e-mail was just another task, and one that people expected you to perform right away, as in within a few hours or the same day.

We thought that was fast.

How quaint.

Because then we got cellphones, iPhones, and BlackBerrys, and now we text like crazy and expect a reply in 3, 2, 1 . . .

Now.

Texting is generational, but not always in ways you'd expect. For example, every time I'm with Daughter Francesca and she gets a text, I look over and ask her, "Aren't you going to get that?"

She'll shrug. "Whenever."

I blink. I can't ignore a text, like in the old days when I couldn't ignore a ringing phone.

What gives?

I went online, where I learned that every time somebody reads a text, they get a surge of dopamine in the brain. You know about dopamine. It makes you dopey.

And its little burst of pleasure makes getting a text almost addictive, much like trolling the Internet in general. I can't explain why I am the one addicted to Francesca's texts when she isn't, except that I'm dopier.

Most of my texts are about work, some are about fun, but I mentally feel them piling up if I don't answer them. Texts are the new e-mail, the never-ending list of Things to Do. I actually have a crack on the dry skin of my thumb from my CrackBerry, and sometimes my neck hurts from looking down all the time.

"Mom," Francesca said. "You need to chill."

And I do, but I can't.

Except when it comes to dating, where the time you take to return the text is carefully measured, and examined. I wasn't sure of the protocol, but took a poll of my besties Laura and Franca, in addition to Francesca, and here's the skinny: If he replies right away, you reply right away. If he replies a day later, you reply a day later. In texting, symmetry rules.

Also it matters what you say and how you say it. I have edited my text messages more times than any of my novels. Francesca has coached me to be more informal and approving - ironically, the tone of every one of these columns, but nowhere in anything I text. Evidently, when you set up a date, "looking forward to it" isn't sexy.

And don't write xoxo before you have xoxoed.

Also, emoticons are out unless you're dating a 12-year-old.

:)

Bottom line, you have to keep your texts in context.

 


Look for Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella's new collection of humorous essays, "Meet Me at Emotional Baggage Claim," in stores now. Also, look for Lisa's most recent novel, "Come Home." You can write to Lisa at lisa@scottoline.com.

Lisa Scottoline Inquirer Columnist
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