COLUMN: Texting far from the talk of my town

Are we going to be having a funeral for the fine art of conversation anytime soon?

I wouldn’t rule it out.

CBC News reported that smartphones have surpassed landlines as most Americans’ primary means of communication.

In Canada, about one in five of us rely solely on cellphones.

And most importantly, a CNN report noted 31 per cent of people would rather text than talk and that number is growing, especially among young adults.

I can see it now: you’re with a bunch of friends and recall a good joke you want to share with the group.

A grasshopper walks into a club and sits down at the bar.

“You know, we have a drink named after you,” said the bartender.

“Really?” said the grasshopper. “You have a drink named Steve?”

Your friends all burst out in laughter.

“Lol, lol, lol, lol …” they text.

It could happen.

A night out with friends could mean each of you parked at home glued to your cellphone.

Again, it could happen. After all, seven of us finished Thanksgiving dinner back in October and moved into the living room. Suddenly everything went dead quiet.

Everyone but myself and my two-year-old grandson was on their phone, checking messages, finding out what they missed and letting friends know the same.

It’s not like they were out of touch for days. The cells were beeping and chiming all through the meal.

It makes it hard to talk when the person you’re with looks away to see who just sent them a text, tweet or e-mail.

I call people all the time and leave a message for them to give us a call. The next thing you know my wife’s cellphone goes off with a text wondering “What’s up?”

Does this happen all the time? Whatever happened to talking?

An early episode of Two and a Half Men had Jake sitting on the couch with girl, neither saying a word, but conversing back and forth on their laptop computers.

What’s next? You wake up in the morning, power up and say good morning to you wife on your Android operating system? I won’t even get into what happens if you’re both feeling a little frisky. Talk about pushing the right buttons.

The problem with texting, tweeting and e-mailing is it’s impersonal and can often be taken the wrong way.

You can’t hear humour in a text message. You can’t hear loving tones in a tweet. And you can’t hear sarcasm in an e-mail.

And what about anger?

How do you get that final point across in an argument when all you can do is slam your finger down on the off button?

Breaking up with someone over the phone is bad enough, but by text?

Come on.

The arguments for texting do carry some weight: no one can overhear your conversation; you can't be drowned out by background noise; and it’s a great function for the hearing impaired.

But to me, the cellphone has become a technological anchor wrapped around one’s neck.

There’s an art to conversation. It makes you think in the moment, putting the proper phrase together on the fly.

Texting allows you to edit and then edit again before hitting the send button.

It’s not the real you.

I realize I might be cooking my own goose with this column, as words are my living. By no means would I ever discourage anyone from giving up reading – especially newspapers.

I love reading. But after 10 hours in front of my computer, the last thing I want to do is go home and read my cellphone.

I know there are folks – almost every member of my family included – who will disagree with me.

If so, give me a call and we can have a conversation about it. It will be nice to talk to you.

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