Saturday, June 11, 2016

My Love-Hate Affair with Texting

When I had my dumb flip-phone, I hated texting. I almost never sent texts. If someone texted me, I was likely to not discover the message until days after it was sent. Even if I saw it the same day, I’d usually respond via a phone call. To me texting was an evil tool, invented by service providers to extract more money out of you. Part of my distaste no doubt came from the fact that on the dumb phones, there was no keyboard as such. If I needed the letter C, for instance, I had to tap the A key three times, and so on.

A few months ago, I was forced to upgrade to an iPhone to improve my reception. My flip-phone frequently dropped calls mid-conversation, but it was too dumb to connect to the Wi-Fi in our condo. I’m learning to use some of the features that my new phone affords.

For example, I entered most of my regular contacts into it and set specific ringtones for certain groups. Calls coming from my immediate family, all dog lovers, bark for my attention. The Protectors of Animals folks quack for me. My husband has his own alert, called Sherwood Forest. It sounds a bit like herald trumpets to me, so I tell everyone it’s my lord and master calling.

It seems that the people who live in our condo community are fond of texting in lieu of calling. I’m gradually becoming accustomed to checking for messages at least once a day. To my surprise, I’ve discovered that texting can actually be more convenient than calling. For one thing, I can control the amount of time expended on the exchange.

The iPhone has a keyboard, but it’s easy to make mistakes with it. I have small hands, but apparently I have fat fingertips. I frequently get the letter one over from the one I want and have to use the backup “key” to correct it.

I used to wonder how folks making jokes about the auto-complete (not the auto-correct) could possibly have been the victims of such seemingly random substitutions by their “smart” phones. That was until I noticed that my iPhone has a bar above the message area that provides suggested completions for words I’m typing. As I key in more letters, the suggestions change, presumably getting more refined.

There’s probably some algorithm for words used most often by frequent texters. The iPhone gives you three choices it deems most common, supposedly based on the letters keyed thus far. Clearly their frequent texters have a different vocabulary than I do. I’m usually down to my last letter before the word I’m keying in shows up in the choices, if at all. That makes the auto-complete feature a distraction for me. It also causes me to send some messages as strange as the ones I used to scoff at.

Here’s another thing I don’t like about the iPhone texting setup. The “send” button is on the upper right. That’s where the correction button is on the dialing keyboard. More than once I meant to correct something in an incomplete message, but sent it instead, generating a “Huh?” reply from the recipient. To which I texted back: “Premature ejaculation.”

One use I’ve discovered for texting that has led to my nascent love affair with it came to me a few days ago. I was in a meeting that seemed like it would drag on forever. The committee chair got up and slipped out quietly. His presence had been an especially calming factor for me. I texted him after a few minutes, asking if he was coming back. (He was not.) We then exchanged several messages, a welcome distraction for me.

I bought a texting stick at one of those dollar stores. It’s useful for keying in longer messages. I keep it on a table in our family room, so I didn’t have it with me in that meeting. I can see that the texting stick is going to be like my reading glasses. I’ll stash one in every room and in my purse and in my briefcase. That won’t fix all of the things I find annoying about texting, but it will help. I just have to accept that this is going to be a love-hate affair. I can live with that.

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