I long for the audio in communication.
Someone once asked me to identify my favorite sound. Without hesitation, I said it was the sweet country voice of my preschool nephew, Jason. That was more than 30 years ago. Today, I'm still connected to that special voice, but now it appears to me most often on the rectangular screen of my smart phone. Without sound. Without his soft twang. Through texting.
In spite of myself, I have become a fan of texting, and find countless ways it works for me. It's an unobtrusive way to let people know you're late because you're sitting in traffic, the perfect vehicle for an encouraging "I love you," a timesaver when you need to pass along a quick message but don't want to hear what the dog did today, and a sly way to communicate when you're trapped in a boring meeting.
My problem with texting is that it's silent, somewhat secretive, and is done in solitude, a series of instant short messages often typed in perplexing coded language conjured up by 15-year-olds in study hall. Texting is about speed and thumb coordination, and it cheats me out of the simple acoustic pleasure of voice – my nephew's or anyone else's. I miss the seductive sound and accent, the animation, pitch, timbre, and tone. I would trade every obnoxious "LOL" ever typed to hear deep, rich laughter spilling wildly into the conversation.
There is the assumption that texting offers an easy way to stay in touch and strengthens connectedness. And quite often I find that to be true – especially with relatives in their 30s who have lost the ability to e-mail and seem to have no idea that their smart phone can also be used for phone calls. It bridges some mysterious, but very real, technological gap between generations. I'm begrudgingly grateful for it.