Lost in texting translation

I'm finding it a bit hard to get used to the 21st century. Technology makes things easier, but it seems like no one likes to talk to each other anymore.

I was with my 23-year-old son, Greg, at the gym this past summer and he noticed a pretty girl. I saw that she noticed him, too. They each took trips to the water fountain more often than was physiologically necessary or desirable, clearly in order to pass by the other. My son is a pretty outgoing and fearless guy, but for some reason he didn't say anything to her and she said nothing to him, like a strange mating ritual destined to result in a barren society.

When we got home, we had lunch with my daughter and wife. Greg mentioned the pretty girl, and I said, "Why didn't you talk to her? You know, ask her for her telephone number."

My son and daughter both looked at me like I had been sniffing glue. Francesca, my 21-year-old, shouted, "Noooo, Dad! He'd seem like a creeper if he goes and asks her for her number."

"How else are you gonna meet?" I asked.

They both chimed in, schooling me. Basically, it comes down to this. You look her up on Facebook, send her an email or text, and she texts back and you start your communication that way. I still don't get how you find her on Facebook if you don't know her name, but there's probably an app for that.

To me, cyberstalking seems a bit more creepy than the old-school method of actually speaking to someone. It must have been one of those rare moments when my children thought something I said made sense (or else chalk it up to hormones), but I'm proud to say that my son eventually saw her again and asked this pretty young woman for her telephone number. They are still dating.

The ability to text patients has made things a lot easier. Rather than play phone tag all day, I can get the results of their cholesterol tests to them lickety-split. But even that can get out of hand - it's one thing to text, "Cholest looks gr8. LDL is 67," but you can't just text something like: "You have cancer. Sorry."

On the one hand, it is a lot easier and cleaner to text the facts, good or bad, rather than having to do it in person or over the phone. Once when I was an intern, a patient whom I had never met died unexpectedly. I had to call his wife, but each time I picked up the phone, my heart pounded in my chest and I couldn't breathe. I was too afraid to call, afraid of all the emotional stuff that I was going to have to force this unknown woman to go through. I did it eventually, and I still remember the conversation.

But texting is much more emotionally detached - so easy to state just the facts. Someone I work with broke up with her boyfriend recently. He broke up with her via text. To me, it seemed cold and harsh, but to her, although she was sad, she didn't think anything was unusual about the way he broke up with her.

When I was a younger man, talking was the second most popular form of intercourse. Now that there is texting, talking has apparently slipped into third place.

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