I feel bad. Earlier today, I did something very hurtful – and to my own daughter, no less. I sent her a terribly insensitive text. What was the hostile, insulting thing I wrote? “Hope you’re doing well. Would love to see you sometime soon.”
I feel sick about what I’ve done. As my daughter explained it, I was bullying her and being demanding – both clearly conveyed by my use of a period at the end of each sentence. You read correctly. The period(.) also telegraphed anger and that I wished to end this text exchange.
How rude of me! After all, my daughter has a lot on her plate with work and grad school. After apologizing profusely and asking if she could ever find it in her heart to forgive me for my heartless affront, I asked her to enlighten me about any other texting rules that perhaps I had been routinely violating without knowing it.
Oh, I’m aware of a few do’s and don’ts. I know you shouldn’t type out novels (but I do it anyway – partly just to annoy my kids). I also learned that the use of ALL CAPS is considered SHOUTING and is frowned upon. BUT I DON’T CARE!! That said, after my daughter stopped reading my 200-word soliloquy about all the things I’m grateful for as her dad, she texted back: TEXTING PROTOCOLS HAVE EVOLVED DAD GET WITH THE PROGRAM
According to my daughter, and the newly abridged millennial version of Elements of Style, when it comes to texting etiquette, I’m stuck in the Pleistocene Era. Who knew that nowadays it’s “bad form” to use any punctuation when texting? Here I thought I was with the times texting my kids rather than telephoning, when actually I’ve been driving them crazy with my constant barrage of commas, apostrophes, and in-your-face use of question marks.
Apparently, not only is a period interpreted as a command, but also as a blow off. And exclamation marks?! Tread carefully there. Did you know that using a single exclamation mark means you’re being sarcastic? Me neither! I mean me neither. However, two exclamation marks is fine. But stop at two. Because three !!!’s is over-the-top irritating. It means you’re being a drama queen, so take it down a notch, sister!!
The use of capital letters is also something to avoid at all costs, especially if the word is normally meant to be capitalized. Never text “New York” when “new york” (or better still, “ny”) will suffice. Evidently, proper grammar and syntax are indicators you’re a total nerd who is just not woke enough for today’s under-30 crowd.
Let me give an example. Normally, I might be inclined to text my daughter, “Hi, Rachel. Did you have a good day at work? I can’t wait to see you when you come to Camano Island. Call me soon, if you have a chance, okay? Love you!” First of all, the period clearly showed I was ordering her to come home. Then the derisive single exclamation mark made a mockery of my love for her. And all those capitals!! The correctly written text would have looked like this: “hi rachel did you have a good day at work i cant wait to see you when you come to camano island call me soon if you have a chance okay love you”
Better still, eliminate all those time-wasting vowels: “hi rchl dd u hv a gd dy at wrk cnt wt 2 c u whn u cme 2 cmn islnd cll me sn k lv u”
That’s better. But if you really want to be respectful of your kids’ communication preferences, you should eliminate those pesky adjectives, adverbs, and nouns – young people can’t be bothered to read complete thoughts. That’s so 1990’s. They are way too busy checking out Instagram or Tinder to wade through your meandering message.
Technically, if you truly want to adhere to the official guidelines of texting civility in this brave new world we live in, bail on the notion of sending your child a text in the first place. After all, you texted her a mere two weeks ago. Back off!! You’re starting to crowd her, dude.
In summary, when texting one of your under-age-30 offspring, remember these helpful DON’T’s:
DON’T drone on and on. Get to the point.
DON’T SHOUT at them with angry periods and in-your-face ALL CAPS.
Wherever possible, DON’T use words when texting. I’m sure there’s a four-emoji chain that can clearly communicate, “I won’t be able to make it to your place before 7pm because I’m stuck in traffic, so could you order us a veggie pizza?”
DON’T expect them to spellcheck their texts. So what if your college graduate’s text auto-corrected to change “I’m putting up my prius for sale” to “I’m putting up my penis for sale.” You should know what he meant.
DON’T text your kids too frequently. Once a month seems slightly excessive but within the margins of millennial social norms.
DON’T force them to wade through yet another adjective-laden tome about your recent home remodeling project. They won’t be spending any time at home when they come to visit you at Christmas anyway, so why are you telling them this stuff?
Most important of all, DON’T expect a reply – EVER. Your kids have far more important things to do than to keep in touch with their parents.
Be patient. Just wait till they turn forty and have self-absorbed teenagers of their own. Then they’ll be texting you night and day (begging for your parenting advice). And their kids will mock them as so passé. After all, fifteen years from now, who’d be caught texting? That’s so 2020.
That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.
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© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2020. Edited by Betsy Jones.