Modern Communication: A texting etiquette primer for Boomers…

A Boomer goes about his day

Boomers have a problem.

Technically, boomers have a lot of problems, like their misplaced pride, regressive values, and frail, saggy, liver-spotted bodies scaring children and gentle ladies of sensitive constitution, but the specific problem I refer to is their inability to communicate appropriately in modern society.

Think about it from their point of view. When their parents were children, humanity was still drawing ochre-colored mammoths on cave walls, and language consisted of grunts and pointing. When Boomers were young, literacy was as rare as a supportive, sensitive, emotionally open father figure, and was almost exclusively limited to myopic monks painstakingly transcribing ancient religious texts onto stretched vellum by hand.

Consequently, Boomers, well…they don’t text so good.

Millennials, by comparison, prefer typed communication to the unhygenic barbarity of the spoken word. Millennials spent their formative years lurking in their parents “computer room”, happily typing away for hours with their friends and creepy internet strangers using AOL instant messenger on a 56k dialup connection. The inevitable result of these activities, besides giving the family Gateway computer incurable super-aids while attempting to download Limp Bizkit’s Nookie from Limewire, was that Millennials learned to express emotion and intent via punctuation in an informal conversational typing style. Boomers, by comparison grew up chiseling pictograms into stone tablets. Writing was a serious business. After walking up hill six miles through the snow to a one room unheated schoolhouse, Boomers were taught that writing should be more formal, and that expressive punctuation was childish and silly. They were taught that exclamation points were infantile, and that conversational pacing and tone was inappropriate for written communication. Paired with their currently failing eyesight, and knobby arthritic hands which lack keyboard muscle memory, this tends to make their text messages quite cold, perfunctory, and sterile. In a time when writing a letter involved plucking a feather from a disagreeable goose to make a quill, dissecting a squid for its bladder of ink, carefully writing a short missive on a scrap of paper from the back page of the Sears Roebuck catalogue, tying it securely to the leg of a carrier pigeon, and hoping the bird survived the harrowing 3 week journey from the front back to the gilded manor estate where your middle-aged 18-year-old sweetheart languished in a laudanum and radium makeup induced haze, then yes, formality and brevity would be worthwhile writing habits to cultivate. What they fail to realize however, is that, to supple young fingers which can type more quickly than a mouth can speak, and where technology can deliver messages instantaneously across the globe, text-based conversations truly are conversations, and not treating them as such is quite jarring and off-putting to the recipient.

Millennials communicate much more clearly through text because they don’t have those outdated notions of formality. They’re used to holding convenient text-based conversations with their friends and have learned how to use punctuation to great effect to convey accurate intent and emotion. Boomer texts usually fail to do so.

Take for example, the following statement – “Here I come”.

If a Millennial were to receive that text with anything other than an exclamation point at the end of it, they would worry that they have somehow angered or offended the person sending the text.

Here I come! – means that your friend is on their way, and nothing is wrong. Here I come!!! – means that your friend is on their way, and they’re relatively happy about the situation. Here I come!!!!!!!!!!!!!! – means that they are on their way, and are super fucking stoked.

Conversely, Here I come. – is NOT a plain statement of fact, but instead an indicator that something. is. wrong. The period is stern. It is angry. It indicates that while the person is indeed coming, they are somewhat pissed off about it, and will be yelling at you about something when they arrive.

What is even worse however, is Here I come… – Oof. The ellipsis. The most ominous of punctuation. Boomers, you seem to use (…) a lot, and I can promise you that Millennials are not reading it how you intend to use it. That grammatical pause is most often used by Millennials to indicate threat, or deep annoyance, or as the setup to the punchline of a joke. Since there is not often a joke following up “Here I come”, the implication would instead be something along the lines of “Here I come…I’m coming to get you (and then kill you)”, or “Here I come…but I’m REALLY fucking pissed off about it and when I arrive I’ll be skipping the yelling and going straight to slapping you in the mouth.”

As another example, LOL or HAHA in texts. LOL, for the particularly uninitiated, means laugh-out-loud, and it is used as a response to indicate that a sentence was either received well, or that a sentence being sent is intended to be lighthearted and uncontroversial. Something like “You forgot the cake lol” does not mean that the sender is actually laughing out loud about your failure to bring cake, they are instead notifying you that you forgot the cake, and that they are not upset about it. It is similar to using an exclamation point, and is often interchangeable. So “you forgot the cake lol” and “you forgot the cake!” can feasibly mean the same thing, which is that cake was forgotten, but all is forgiven. “you forgot the cake.” however, would mean that they are angry about you forgetting the cake, and “you forgot the cake…” means that forgetting the cake is the last thing you’ll ever do, because you’re about to be murdered.

There is a good bit of nuance to the LOL and HAHA as well. Capitalization changes the degree of the term. So lol is only slightly funny, whereas LOL means it is REALLY funny, because it’s BIGGER. LMAO (laughing my ass off) and ROFL (rolling on the floor laughing) are for the funniest things of all, messages which were funny enough that it may even have elicited an actual physiological response, like a quick breath out the nostrils, or even an audible chuckle. “haha” and “HAHA” follow the same rules, with both capitalization, and amount of “ha”s used indicating increasing humor (hahahahaha is funnier than haha). Placing a space between the “ha”s however, is not good. HA HA is bad, and HA HA. (with a period) is worse. HA HA, with the space in between indicates a pause for effect, like you are sarcastically fake laughing, and “HA HA.” is especially scathing.

Ugh, there are too many rules, complain Boomers (a subsection of the population who historically fucking LOVE rules), not because the rules are particularly confusing or onerous to learn, but simply because Boomers are used to perceiving themselves as the experienced professionals at everything, and they don’t like being reminded that there is much they do not yet know. Why should we even text anyway, Boomers may say, hand-written letters are much fancier, and speaking face to face or on the phone with our words is clearly superior?

I say that superiority is debatable. The goal is clear communication. Most people, and Boomers especially, employ the frustrating Christian habit of assigning moral value to inherently amoral activities. Cursive isn’t fancier/better/more formal/morally upright to print, it’s just an obsolete penmanship style that has been made redundant and unnecessary by the speed, convenience, and legibility of word processors and cell phone screens. A person with good handwriting is not a better person, they are just a person with good handwriting. Inefficient and slowly produced handwritten letters have been replaced by the convenience and clarity of typewritten and printed letters, and even more so by purely digital email and texts. But what about phone calls, you scream impotently into the void. After they stole our telegraph, nothing beats a good old fashioned phone conversation. So why would you even want to text or email instead of just calling?

Stop. Just stop. Millennials HATE phone calls.

Back when Boomers opinions mattered, phones used to be tied to a place, whether home or office, and if you were not within reach of the phone, you were free. If you weren’t within arm’s reach of your landline telephone, nobody could impose upon your free time or privacy. Your boss could not bother you on vacation, your time was your own. If you had to speak on the phone, you did it in the privacy of your own home or workplace. Not in line at the grocery store. Not while trying to enjoy a romantic meal at a fancy restaurant. Millennials do not have that freedom. Thanks to our capitalist corporate overlords demanding more and more productivity and infringing more and more upon our previously free time in their quest for ever higher profits wrung from ever more overworked and underpaid employees, now that everybody has cell phones, we are expected to be plugged in and available all the time. It is EXHAUSTING.

To attempt to combat this, millennials keep their phones on silent ALWAYS. The only time a millennial would have a phone ringer turned on, is if they are expecting a very very very important call, like to notify them that their wife is going into labor, or their mistress successfully got the abortion. Boomers, there is NO reason to keep your phone ringer or notifications on for normal everyday casual usage. If your phone is always in your pocket, you can check the screen periodically, so you would notice a missed call or text quickly enough and can respond accordingly. An immediate response is not expected, nor should it be.

Boomers, try to understand, it is not texts or emails that a Millennial considers rude. If they’re texting you, it’s because they respect you. Actual phone calls are considered rude and demanding. You can answer an email or respond to a text conversation at your leisure while doing other things. You can multi-task. You can prepare yourself and provide thoughtful and accurate responses. Calls on the other hand require your undivided attention immediately and imprison you in a single conversation until they are over. Sending a text or email indicates that the sender respects the recipients time and would like to work with them at their convenience to communicate whatever needs to be communicated. Calling a person indicates that you only care about yourself, and you don’t care about how your selfish actions may inconvenience or otherwise bother your target audience.

When a Boomer makes a phone call, I generously assume they’re not thinking “oh boy, let’s see how quickly I can ruin somebody’s day today”, but that’s ultimately what they’re doing. When millennials receive a call, their immediate response is – first of all how dare you? Who would even? Why would? Eww.

They feel put out, infringed upon, violated.

Receiving a text or an email however, they love. They can respond at a convenient time. They can collect their thoughts and formulate a better response. They can multi-task and remain in contact with multiple parties. It does not disturb the people around them, like having to listen to one half of a phone conversation in public would. And there is no loss of intent, anything that can be conveyed verbally over the phone can also be conveyed visually through text, since Millennials are able to type quickly and express emotion accurately through the clever use of punctuation, abbreviations, and emojis.

The goal is clear, concise, convenient, and quick communication. Currently the best way to do that is through text or email. Not phone calls. Not letters sent via pony express. Not seances, crop circles, or petroglyphs. Text or email. And the great thing is, Boomers, you too can take part in this new renaissance of efficient global communication. All it takes is a little practice. So get to it! Boomers, learn how to text… (implied by the ellipsis – or else.)

About Max T Kramer

Max has been better than you at writing since the third grade. He currently lives in Connecticut, but will someday return to the desert.
This entry was posted in Max's Journal and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Modern Communication: A texting etiquette primer for Boomers…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s