You may be surprised to learn that the humble SMS text message enjoyed it’s 20th birthday in December 2012. First sent as a Christmas greeting on the 3rd December 1992, we now send over 8 trillion messages every year (that’s around 15 Million every minute).
Texting has made a significant cultural impact in our society, including the way we deal with family and friends, how we do business and communicate with customers.
This may be controversial, but we have decided to put the abbreviations and acronyms that are so synonymous with SMS texting in the ‘good’ pile. Yes, thats right: LOL, OMG, TTFN, 2DAY which have the potential to irritate English teachers and parents alike. It’s a common misconception that texting consists of mainly abbreviated phrases. In fact only 10% of words are abbreviated, and experts say that variation in the written language as a result of SMS ‘text-speak’ has had a negligible impact on other forms of writing and speaking. SMS related abbreviations are a natural evolution of our vocabulary and acronyms have been used in many other places too, such as dating adverts when there were limited characters available (SWF, DTE, GSOH).
Another controversial point is spell checking, which comes as standard with most mobile phones. This tool helps people learn words, rather than the misconception that the phone is ‘replacing the brain’.
One thing’s for sure, texting has certainly sped things up. In trillions of short conversations we cut-to-the chase, by avoiding lengthly and protracted pleasantries, instead opting for a more intimate, direct, raw, cold or succinct kind of conversation. Texting gives you longer to consider a well-formulated response, as opposed to being in direct conversation with someone.
Texting can cause confusion and lead to misunderstandings with an unfortunate or ill timed word or two, which can also be hilarious.
Do you remember the days when it was considered rude to send a text about virtually anything important? To apologize about your lack of appearance at that big family gathering, or to contact your boss if you were feeling under the weather? This kind of behavior has led some people to ask if SMS has resulted in the younger generation dispensing with all normal standards of politeness and etiquette.
At one stage it felt very convenient (logical even) to sign-up to services to receive regular updates by SMS. It was a simpler alternative to reading long emails sent by businesses. But then, as the messages started to arrive and interrupt conversations with loved ones, it was all too easy to get frustrated by ‘advertising texts’. In fact this form of marketing was so militantly apposed, that any brand sending Ads via SMS had to seriously question the negative impact.
Looking back it’s worth saying “what were we thinking?” SMS is (after all) a very personal and concise messaging service, where some of life’s big problems are solved.
Here’s a handy dictionary for anyone confused by modern text-speak: