C U L8R: The Changing Forms of Communication

This morning as my kids were playing quietly by themselves, I was indulging in some online time with Selena. We were swapping emails back and forth. For a moment, I thought about switching over to G-Chat, but  I didn’t. It wasn’t really necessary, we were emailing just fine, every 5-10minutes to each other. At the same time, I was skimming Twitter and catching up on Facebook.

Then a link to the New York Times article: Email Gets an Instant Makeover came up on my Twitter stream. I had to click through, although I knew what I would find. I wasn’t surprised in the least.

Basically, NYT is reporting that the number of email users is dropping, the number of text/IM users is rising, and it’s the younger generation making this switch. They also point out that the younger the user, the short, more broken the English is. How young is young? Well, they make the point that a 23 year old is having a hard time understanding his 12 year old brother via text message.

After reading the article, of course, my oldster alarm was ringing. Sure, sometimes I chat on Facebook, but mostly I send messages. If it isn’t time sensitive,  I email. If it is time sensitive, I text. Unless I happen to be online at the same time as someone I want to talk to, I very rarely chat/IM. If I really need an instant interaction, I make a phone call.

I’ve already resigned myself to the fact that my children will probably never have a home phone. Chances are they may not ever use a computer keyboard, with the rate touchscreens are being developed. They may only own a limited supply of printed paper books. I could go on and on. (yes, the oldster alarm is ringing loud and clear)

It was the comments, however, that really piqued my interest. NYT readers are an educated bunch, so the comments (unlike those on some many other news sources) are actually worth reading. There readers lamented the demise of the English language, lambasted the Times for making generalizations about the country based on the behavior of twelve year olds, and made the case that millennials are as scary as the media makes them out to be.

Once children hit that second plane of development (ages 6-12), they are driven by what is called the herd-instinct. They begin running with a pack of peers, and they learn who they are by interacting with said peers. For as long as there have been socialized children, they have wanted a special way to communicate with each other. Some generations had invisible ink and walkie talkies, other generations had complicated note-folding rituals to make the notes being passed in class harder to be seen by the teacher. This generation has text messaging.

The downside is that this generation won’t develop the long handed writing skills of their parents and grandparents. I don’t know what it does to your brain to not have that pencil and paper experience. They won’t have the archives of shoe boxes filled with school notes (I’m not the only one who kept them, right?), or the notebook that’s been passed amongst friends, or the joy of sleeping with a love letter under their pillow. The anticipation of waiting for a letter in the mailbox has been greatly diminished –the anticipation of a lot of things has been nullified by advances in technology.

What do you think? Is this the end of the world as we know it? Do you feel fine? How do you draw the lines of the technology invasion? How do your children? Is there is difference in how you communicate compared to your younger or older co-workers?

2 replies on “C U L8R: The Changing Forms of Communication”

My great ‘old’ moment came when I heard myself telling my kids that ‘we didn’t even have e-mail when I was in high school.’

I’m starting to accept the trade-off. When I was little, I knew how to properly handle a record and set the needle on the song I wanted to hear. It’s entirely possible that my daughter will never do this, but she can log on to the computer, open a browser and find It can be hard to accept, but a great man once said:

“I hear children cry, I watch them grow.
They’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know.
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.”

Each generation laments the impending downfall of the younger generation. Change, it happens for better and worse. I “scream” about my kids not using books, and their tech father supports them.

Neither of my kids write cursive. They don’t have to. I had to teach the second born all the capital cursive letters two weeks ago. Sign of the times.

I am a dinosaur and know it. I battle with my pro-tech comp sci major husband. I was the last among my friends to handwrite letters which were much appreciated. I still handwrite holiday cards though. And I insist my sons handwrite their thanks yous.

I told second born son he doesn’t know the joys of passing notes in class, the extremes we had to go through. He’s not interested and continues texting his friends, puts me on “Mom mute”. I insist like a meany mom that he not text when we watch movies together.

Will continue to rattle my cane and quill pen, the oldster tech dinosaur that I am.

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