Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Texting Hell

The Philippines is the text-message capital of the world.

I should probably capitalize and italicize that:

The Philippines is the Text-Message Capital of the World.

That looks better.

Filipinos spend more time texting than almost anything else. The proficiency with which they send messages is astounding. Their thumbs race about almost a blur as they compose messages while having a conversation and eating all at the same time...and they do it all while walking, too!

I am amazed.

I know people who have this skill, but can't type on a computer keyboard without searching around for each letter. Even Edson's father colorfully refers to his typing skills as being of Biblical Speed: Seek and Ye Shall Find.

I am also perplexed. I'll get to that later.

As in email, there are three types of text messages: original, forwards, and spam.

I get forwarded messages like this all the time:

Well, there's more to the message than that; but that's all that fit on the first screen!

Anyway, these forwarded messages usually consist of either jokes or inspirational messages. The one above was an inspirational message, by the way. Mostly I receive these so-called inspirational messages. They are usually either depressing or sweetly trite. Once in a great while, like all forwarded messages, they are really cute and I feel like keeping them or I at least smile or tell Edson about it. I don't really feel like forwarding them though.

I don't receive much spam. On those rare occasions I do, it is always from my provider, Globe.

It is the original text messages that have me stumped. I know I said perplexed, but I now feel more stumped. Actually a bit of both, they are fairly synonymous after all.


I'll text someone to confirm with them the date, time, and place of a photo shoot. For instance, I'll text: Let's meet at the Coffee Bean at Greenbelt 3, Saturday at 1pm. I put all that in one text.

Sounds simple enough, right?

Moments later I receive this response: Wer at?

Frustrated, I reply: Coffee Bean in Greenbelt 3.

Response: Wut tym?

Banging my head into a concrete wall, I reply: 1pm.

And it goes on and on, much like classic Abbott and Costello or Jack Benny and Mel Blanc's Si, Sy, Sue routine.

See, what I don't get is all the attention that must be paid to reading those two and three-screens worth of "inspirational" forwarded messages is completely lost in something simple like a short text detailing time, date, and place.

So now I have to use one text message each to convey those three things. That's a separate charge for each of those texts I send as well as those the person I am communicating with sends. In the end what should just be two texts:

1. Hi, what's going on with the shoot?
2. We'll meet at Coffee Bean, Greenbelt 3, Saturday at 1pm.
3. OK, thanks. See you then! (OK, maybe three, for politeness' sake)

...often ends up being six or seven between the two of us.

At what works out to be one peso per text message, the amount of waste is amazing. Now sure, one peso isn't very much (about U.S. two and a half cents at the time of this writing), but my point is that the Philippines is a poor country. If everybody read and comprehended the messages they received, they could save a little money that way.

Now it isn't just me that feels this way. Edson also gets just as exasperated as I do about this. And this comes from all levels as well: people earning or having earned masters degrees, professional people, call center agents, college drop outs, rich and poor.

So, what is it?

Is it the ability to comprehend what one reads?

Is this unique to text messaging? I wonder: is this the same in other places as well?

Is it shrinking attention spans?

Is it just laziness?

Is it global warming?

Can it be blamed on Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, George Bush, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, or the Dalai Lama (China would say him)?

All I know is this: There'd be a lot less texting going on if people could pay attention to what is sent to them the first time, and therefore a lot less money going to providers such as Globe and Smart.

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