tha tymz, they r a’ chngn

Seven in ten teens have a cell phone these days, and you can bet your bottom dollar that they’re all using them to text each other.  Yes, this is new.  I didn’t have a cell phone until three months into my freshman year of college, and didn’t have a texting plan until probably late sophomore year, which I only got because I was being texted so often at ten or fifteen cents a pop that it was a more financially sound decision for me to just pay the five bucks a month.  Still though, I rarely text message, and when I do, I am in the minority of texters that prefers using proper punctuation, grammar, and capitalization.  No LOLs, no TTYLs, not even a measly JK.  Occassionally I’ll let something slip, but I never feel good about it.  Never.

So my interest was perked when I heard about the Pew Research Group’s study on whether or not texting and internet communication is affecting the writing of American teenagers.  And the answer to that question that they determined after months of thorough and detailed research was a resounding “uh… maybe?”

The confusion likely stems from the fact that the report determined that a majority of teens don’t consider texting or communication over the internet as actual ‘writing,’ and therefore they allow themselves the privilege of abbreviations.  But despite that, the lax attitude with which teens approach texting and using MySpace has in fact seeped into what they do consider ‘writing’– their schoolwork.  Perhaps the most astonishing statistic they found is that 50% of teens admit to using informal electronic writing styles (lack of capitalization, improper punctuation, etc.) in their academic papers.  And since the question was asked of the students and not the teachers, the result assumedly does not count the students who don’t even realize that they’re doing it.  Abbreviations like LOL and JK have been used by 38% of students in their schoolwork, and 25% use emoticons like this horrendous little symbol: ;)

Still, 86% of teens think good writing is important to a successful life, with one teen girl even going so far as to say, and I quote, “Cause like if you want to go and get a job and people see like you can’t write or you can’t like read stuff then they won’t hire you.  You have to have good writing skills to get a good job.”

Point taken.

So is the teenage perception of writing actually changing?  Pew is hesitant on this as well.  For some teens, yes, but the study still finds that there are teens out there that understand the boundaries of texting.

“I text sometimes but not a lot,” reports a midwestern teen girl.  “It’s not like it affects me.  But I realize that, like my friend Ally, she texts a lot – a lot.  Like when she wants to say something to her friends she cannot like, she’ll just sit there and text and like when she writes a report you’ll see it in her report.  And then like when she goes to print off, she’ll be like ‘dang, I used that instead of that.’  She’ll have to go and rewrite her report and sometimes she’ll ask me to type her report for her.  And I’ll be like ‘no, I can’t type your report.’”

This girl apparently gets it, but for every girl like this, I’d be willing to bet a hefty chunk of change that there’s at least six ‘friend Allys.’  The fact is, this sort of informal communication is becoming so widespread that it becomes second nature to teens.  Another recent study shows that once kids reach their teenage years, they excersize a third of what they did before those years, primarily because of increased ‘electronic activity.’

So thanks to MySpace and texting, teens are becoming fantastic communicators, but not so fantastic writers, independent of the quality of education they receive.  So what can we expect in the future?  The Boston Globe, in a clever little editorial (that you should read here) says that we may be on a path towards text language, or Textlish, taking over for English, and in the next few decades, we can say goodbye to capital letters, punctuation marks, and the sentence in general.

So what’s the big deal?  Well, maybe there isn’t one.  Maybe it’s just something that’s changing that we can’t help and that isn’t that big of a problem to begin with.  Maybe we should replace our English classes with classes in T9.  As long as we can still understand each other, punctuation and all those silly grammar rules should be considered just a luxury, right?  Plus, with so many people to send messages to each day, who has the time to punctuate or capitalize anymore?  It boils down to ease and efficiency doing battle against style and tradition, and in most cases these days, the easy route is the favored route for Americans.

so it seems as tho tha future uv riting iz rite thr on ur cellfone. and what kud b gr8er then that! :-D


2 Responses to “tha tymz, they r a’ chngn”

  1. August 5, 2008 at 9:45 am

    Several teachers at my workplace threatened to tear up, burn, or otherwise throw out any writing with any “text language” in it, and these teachers taught 7th grade. Chronologically, the third big milestone in education was the publication of Webster’s dictionary, giving the “correct” spelling for English words. In many pre-18th century documents, the spelling is awful, even in government documents.
    In short, we can only hope that our youth will become bilingual, or idk wut the future wil hold.

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