365 Project – Day 214 – This Just In…Cell Phones Do Cause Cancer

My friend Christin called me out of the blue today, excited to tell me about what she had just seen on a movie marquee while driving through Yonkers. I don’t know what made me happier–having an impromptu chat with a friend I haven’t seen in ages, or the fact that she immediately thought of me and my blog when she saw this…

See, Christin knows me well enough to know that, had I been driving past that very same marquee, I probably would have stopped to take a photo myself, so that I could talk about the ridiculousness in my blog. This is why I love my friends. It’s nice to know they are always looking out for me.

Okay, so let’s get down to it, shall we?

I won’t lie and say that I am a big fan of Harry Potter. I am married to a big fan of Harry Potter though, so I’m not totally immune to its charms. I’ve read exactly 1 1/2 of the books, and that was only because I wanted to use some examples from the text in my master’s thesis. I didn’t hate it, but I am not compelled to drop everything I am doing to sit down and read the rest of the novels either. Sure, they might be on my long list of things to read, but there are just a whole lot more books I need to finish first.

That being said, I will admit that I do appreciate and applaude the fact that J.K. Rowling captured the hearts and minds of millions–childrens and adults alike–with her novels. That is the kind of literary success that I can only dream of. And what I respect most about series is the fact that it got people reading again.

In our age of computers and video games and cell phones and televisions with more shows and channels than you could ever watch in your lifetime, Harry Potter got kids to put down the Playstation controllers and pick up books again. Hell, it even got them excited about books again, so excited that they would beg their parents to stand in line for hours outside bookstores, just so they could get in and buy a copy of the newest release and read it before the glue on the binding even had a chance to completely dry.

That, my friends, is worthy of knighthood, or a Nobel Prize, or perhaps we should just go ahead and petition for Ms. Rowling’s sainthood.

For someone like me–a writer, an avid reader, and a lover of words–the world is a downright dismal place these days. While television and movies and video games and the internet have all contributed to the decline of reading and writing, nothing has been quite as detrimental cell phones and texting.

Don’t get me wrong, I like texting as much as the next person. In fact, I much prefer texting or emailing  to actually talking on the phone. When Steven and I began dating and sending each other hundreds of text messages while we were away from each other working boring college fairs, we finally caved in and just got unlimited texting on our phones. We haven’t looked back since.

But, for all of my texting, I refuse to give in to the text message language. You know, all those abbreviations and acronyms that people use. Things like u intead of you. Pix instead of pictures. OMG.  SMH.

I’m pretty sure that people cringe when they carry on any sort of lengthy texting conversations with me, because this is usually the extent of my abbreviating…

Papa Shawn is actually lucky that I even abbreviated “G-ma” in that particular text, because if I hadn’t, he might have received four separate texts instead of only three.

I don’t think it really bothered me all that much when the texting language was confined to the world of texting, or even something like Twitter, where you only have a limited number of characters that you can enter at a time. Sure. Okay. Abbreviating under those circumstances makes sense. What I can’t handle though, is the way this texting language has begun to infect our everyday language, slowly seeping from our texts and tweets and into our classrooms and our offices, and sometimes (gag me) even into our speech. There have been several people that I had to refrain from slapping when they actually uttered OMG in the middle of a sentence.

Some teachers and administrators have even begun to embrace text language and use it as a teaching tool in their classrooms, arguing that it is necessary to get the kids’ attention and get them excited about learning.

I say bullshit.

There are too many kids today who can barely read, can’t spell a word correctly  to save their lives, and who wouldn’t even know how to correctly identify a prepositional phrase if it jumped off the page and sat in their laps singing showtunes.

Somehow, between the time I graduated from high school and the time I started teaching high school English, the whole system imploded.

Instead of rote memorization and lengthy reading assignments and cutthroat spelling bees and diagramming sentences until you swear your eyes are beginning to bleed, kids today are babied and coddled and passed through the broken systems until they somehow graduate high school without being able to write a coherent 5-page unplagiarized essay.

In short, we’ve gotten lazy.

It’s easier to abbreviate than to spell things out. It’s easier to pass kids through the school systems than to actually teach them and hold them accountable and mold them into productive and responsible members of society. It’s easier to do the minimal amount of work to get by than to actually put your heart and soul and blood and sweat and tears into something that you can really be proud of. And it’s a whole lot easier just to sit back and let it all happen than to actually go out and try to make a change.

It’s hard to change, but it’s not impossible.

And so, I’ll keep writing, keep writing, keep writing. I’ll keep reading. I’ll keep annoying all of my friends and family members by spelling out all the words in my text messages. I’ll keep reading to my daughter. I’ll keep hoarding books like they are gold. And I’ll keep praying that more writers like J.K. Rowling come along, writers that catch our attention and ignite our imaginations and challenge us to keep on reading and wanting more.

Tonight’s 365 Project is dedicated to finding ways to revive our love affair with words, and to stop the annoying text language from taking over the world. Who’s with me?!

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