ME and text messaging, we’ve never got on great.
Ever since I was a teenager with my first phone, a lust for life and an acute awareness that every message was costing 10p of my hard-fought £10 credit, we’ve had an uneasy relationship.
SMS has brought me too much bad news; let me look foolish too many times; introduced me to too many people who occupy that hideous moral vacuum where writing ‘cu l8r’ is apparently acceptable.
It is a medium which has (un)helpfully assisted when I’ve wanted to send drunk and embarrassing messages; which has cheerfully conveyed news of my being dumped; and which has put my eyes through the torture of seeing more unnecessary exclamation marks than anyone should ever have to witness.
And yet, here’s the thing: this week is the 20th anniversary since the first ever text was sent and it made me realise - OMG! - I think the humble SMS is probably the greatest thing ever invented. Seriously.
Not everyone will agree.
My fellow grammar Nazis won’t. Neither will those politicians who, during last summer’s riots, declared free messaging to blame - you know, rather than the government’s socio-economic policies - and demanded such communications were shut down. And I’m pretty sure neither either will a friend who still has nightmares about the day he sent his grandma, rather than his girlfriend, the romantic refrain ‘I want to bone u, bad’.
Safe to say, he wasn’t doing much lol-ing after that. Especially when the old girl brushed off the incident by declaring she’d heard it all before from his granddad. Enough to make a boy stick to landlines for life.
And yet, I stand by my claim.
Because while the wheel, the wireless and Call Of Duty 3 all have good shouts at being mankind’s best invention, none of those things, ultimately, allow you to communicate with another human being without, you know, actually having to speak to them. And therein, truly, lies its genius.
For sure, texts have other uses - making appointments, telling jokes, conducting affairs - but ultimately the real beauty lies in enabling you to interact with someone without being, like, interactive.
They let you say what needs saying and ask what needs asking without having to pretend to care about how the person you’re talking to has been, or what their family is up to, or whatever else it is you feel obliged to ask when your mam’s on the line.
They are the conversational equivalent of an SAS raid. In out. Smash grab. He who dares, wins. Heroes all.
*smiley face* indeed.
Which may make me a social miser who was fully deserving of that “it’s over” message years ago.
But I’m not alone.
For this strange, limited form of chit-chat has, in those two decades, become the age’s most pre-eminent form of communication. Some 7 trillion were sent last year. Half of all Brits say they would rather send a text than speak to someone.
Because, for sure, phone messages can be awful, accident-prone, awkward things, and that little bleep can be as ominous as it can exciting; but they’re also funny and thrilling and implicitly intimate. And, more importantly, they’re to the point.
Which is what I’ll be now: happy birthday SMS. It’s been a pleasure growing old together.