Abbreviated Conversations

December 26, 2008

I’ve been exchanging a huge number of text messages with someone in the past week, and have come to realize that my texting habits need a lot of work. =(

I’m not bad, per se, but I think I’m getting it all wrong.

I (too often) stumble good exchanges with a clunky reply, ask all the wrong questions when I want to extend a conversation (lets not get into the bad jokes), bring in needless clarifications, change the subject too abruptly, and generally derail the flow with weighty, inarticulate chunks of pointless blather.
(This is all true)

Ive said things like this. Ask A. Ask R. Say the word Monkey. Then watch them groan.

I've said things like this. Ask A. Ask R. Say the word 'Monkey'. Then watch them groan.

I’ve had some brilliant conversations through SMS, but they’ve largely relied on the charm of whoever i’ve been exchanging messages with, or on the sheer awesomeness of the subject matter (You can never go wrong with gossip, or with ninjas).

Part of the problem is texting the same way one chats on IM – but the way a text message exchange works is pretty different – you can’t for example, fire off a stream of smilies, or a ‘…’ line to build suspense (unless you have l33t typing skills and/or a benevolent billing package) – and spelling mistakes, once made, aren’t as easy to correct like in a chat.

But unlike a chat, texting can tend to be a little more…planned. I sometimes read through a long or particularly important message as I would a draft, sometimes pausing to add an intentional grammatical inaccuracy or smiley after a potentially misunderstandable sentence. (Chats can do this too, sure, but hanging on to a sentence for too long might seem suspicious in certain circumstances. )

But that’s just little things – These are where I majorly fail:

1. Starting and Stopping Conversations.

How appropriate. You fight like a cow.

How appropriate. You fight like a cow.

How do you respond to an observational SMS, something that isnt really a question but an observation, often clever and funny and witty? I always face a dilemma when I get one of these  – do you respond with a counter observation of your own, or ask for more details in the existing observation? What continues the conversation best?

I also never know when to stop asking about something – I am genuinely curious, but I suppose its kinda silly to keep asking about something that was only a small observation in the first place.

2. Choice of Words

Ive always wanted to use this line in conversation someday.

I've always wanted to use this line in conversation someday.

My cellphone’s stupid dictionary is to blame for this: oh, the sheer number of times it puts in ‘me’ instead of ‘of‘ and vice versa, and the oft-annoying ‘suppose and ‘purpose’ overlap (I’ve purposed that a lot of things are good ideas, and wondered what suppose a particular idea had).

I also hate the fact that the word ‘ninja‘ isn’t recognized, neither is ‘blog’ (which has to be typed 2 down arrow down arrow 5 6 4 down arrow) And lets not forget the perennial troubles with typing apostrophe words like ‘couldn’t‘ etc

3. Awesomeness

Ahh, I love the friendly Sign Painter

Ahh, the friendly Sign Painter. The Hemingway of SMS-length tutorial messages, she is.

How do you respond to an awesome message? I feel bad sometimes, sending out ordinary replies to brilliant crafted texts, or settling for a convenient ‘haha. that was awesome!’ to something that was, indeed, quite awesome.

And yes, The tyranny of memory space – my phone allows a max of about 100 messages to be saved, and deciding which ones to keep and which ones to discard is a deeply saddening process.

Hope this post wasn’t too long. =p And if you’ve ever got a terrible message from me – I’ve come clean now, so hopefully you’ll forgive me. =)

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