by Carrie Kirk
I arrived into the texting world relatively late in the cyber game. It was 2011 and I needed to replace my phone. My new phone had both a sexy name (Rumor) and a keyboard that slid out from behind the screen, and even though I was way too old to think it, I thought I was pretty cool. A keyboard that could slide? Come on!
I had my few friends and family members who I would text. While I spelled out every word and resisted abbreviations of any sort, lol, pls and ty became commonplace in everyone's texts. And then came the Emojis or, as I liked to say then, "goober pictures." Could I resist the smiley face as much as the ttyl? Should I?
When I was in my late twenties, I took some education classes at IUPUI. One of my favorites was a class about the evaluation of a child's reading level and writing ability. Texting was the baby not yet thought of in the consumer world; however, email was in full swing. As a class we would discuss if the numerous emails exchanged by children were helping or hindering the development of their writing style. Without referencing any studies, I sided on helping, believing that something -- even if brief and abbreviated -- was better than nothing.
Some of my thinking came from my own experience, where I acquired a mandated life skill by seemingly taking a short cut. As a first grader at Brook Park Elementary School on the northeast side, my teacher, Mrs. Shepherd, was working hard to prepare her short, nearing toothless-age students to become readers.
When my mother, exhausted by raising four girls in completely different stages of life (six, 11, 17 and 20 years old), met with dear, wise and organized Mrs. Shepherd at one of the parent-teacher conferences, she admitted her concern over my love of Archie and Richie Rich comic books. Shouldn't I be reading more books instead? Mrs. Shepherd simply said, "She's reading, and that's all that matters."
It was easy for my mother to dismiss the comic book. They appeared flimsy, had no substantial binding and lacked a certain heft. And just as I felt about abbreviated texting language, I thought the same of Emojis. After all, they are cartoonish, colorful and almost too playful to convey a sentiment lurking in my heart and spirit. When I am worrying about my oldest son entering those teenage years with those teenage issues, is a fretting Emoji with tears pouring out of its eyes the best way to express my angst?
Like it or not, Emojis are another language. It is another way in which we -- person-to-person -- convey messages and emotions about the state of ourselves and our world. It has become another art form in the vein of communication. Pictograms, pictures of actual things, have been at the root of written language since there was such a thing as written language.
We have been decoding pictures since the beginning of well ... us. We were doing it in Mesopotamia, Egypt and China long ago, and here we are again. We are good at decoding pictures, but when it comes to texting that, is something altogether different.
Tyler Schnoebelen, a linguistics Ph.D from Stanford says that while we've learned to talk and write, we're only just now learning to write at the speed of talking (i.e. text). This ends up being a strange territory where we send messages over vast expanses, void of any physical clues.
In the 1950s, the psychologist Albert Mehrabian determined in a frequently cited study that only 7 percent of communication is what we say (verbal), while 38 percent is how we say it (vocal) and 55 percent is what we do and how we look while we're saying it (nonverbal). If this study stands true, we're doing just fine if we are standing face-to-face communicating, but if we're texting, we've just negated 93 percent of our communicative tools.
So thank you, Emoji. Thank you, Party Starters. Thank you, Praying Hands. And, yes, I even thank you, Pistol. Even though it took a while to be comfortable being in a place where my son's text of "LY" can make my day, I feel just fine bouncing back a smiley face with heart-shaped eyes. Because 2DAY, 2MORO and 2NITE it's all FAB to exchange the love in a place where our texting thumbs cannot even begin to keep up with our beating hearts.