THE PRESS OF ATLANTIC CITY
Published: April 28, 2007
By REGINA SCHAFFER
Tommy Buchel is sleeping soundly in his bed when his vibrating cell phone, tucked under his pillow, suddenly wakes him.
“RU awake?” the phone says.
The message is coming from a friend. There is no emergency.
“I get text messages in the middle of the night,” said Buchel, of Galloway Township. “I’ll have my phone under my pillow, and I’ll wake up at 12:30 or 2:30 in the morning. I’m like, ‘What do you need?’ They just want to talk.”
Buchel, likes scores of other teens, is a texter — communicating with his friends via short, typed messages on his cell phone. On any given day, the 14-year-old will send up to 20 texts, usually to close friends or his family.
“I don’t know, I think in a month I send about 200 text messages,” Buchel said. “My one friend, she sends about 2,000 a month. A lot of times, when I text my close friends they’re in trouble or something, grounded from the phone.
“Or, it’s when they’re in school and can’t really talk,” he said.
Text messaging, especially among young people, has become a dominant form of communication, even replacing e-mail and Instant Messenger for some. According to a March survey from Pew Internet & American Life Project, about 63 percent of Americans between the ages 18 to 27 text message.
“For teenagers, communication is king,” said Gary Rudman, president of GTR Consulting. The company has done nationwide studies on teen buying behavior for companies like MTV and Disney.
“It’s so absolutely critical that they be in the know at all times,” Rudman said. “If you are out of the loop for whatever reason, you may be missing out on some critical social currency.”
For example, Jenny breaking up with Bobby during fifth-period lunch.
“With texting specifically, it’s obviously a very mobile thing,” Rudman said. “Teens talk to us all the time about how in class they will be texting. This is a great way to covertly communicate. It’s almost like instant messaging, but you can answer or you don’t have to answer. It doesn’t require as much immediate attention.”
Buchel’s mother, Shannon Buchel, run’s a children’s party business in Galloway Township called Princess for a Day. She said her teenage employees seem to only respond to text messages.
“When they ask what time they come in, they text me, they don’t call me,” Shannon Buchel said. “I text them back, because I have no choice. I don’t think they talk on the phone at all. All they do is text message.”
According to recent data from Virgin Mobile, a company who claims to have more texters then other wireless carriers, 75 percent of their customers aged 15 to 26 text message. Approximately 17 percent of texters send and receive messages more than 21 times a day, and 15 percent said they would choose texting over calling.
“There is no question that kids originally felt like this was a way to talk privately,” said Jayne Wallace, a spokeswoman for Virgin Mobile. “You don’t have to worry about anyone overhearing your conversation.”
Texting does have its limits as far as conversation is concerned. Texters are limited to about 160 characters in a text message.
And because of that, many texters speak in their own language.
“For the word ‘why,’ you just put ‘y’ and a question mark,” Tommy Buchel said.
There are many others: LOL for “laughing out loud,” C U L8tr for “see you later.”
There are so many, in fact, that one can find numerous online guides to speaking in text message. Even commercials parody the strange language.
“TISNF!” a young girl angrily says to her mother in a current Cingular Wireless ad, when her cell phone is taken away for too much texting. On the bottom of the screen is the translation: “that is so not fair!”
“Well … you’re texting is what is … S … NF,” the confused mother bumbles, desperately trying to sound like she gets the lingo.
Despite the jokes, and studies that claim text messaging may hurt teens ability to communicate effectively, others see it differently.
“I don’t think it’s eroding personal communication,” Wallace said. “The truth is, when we look at our research, you ask teens what’s the way you communicate the most, and they say in person, still. If you give people multiple ways to communicate, different things will fit at different times.”
Still, why not just pick up the phone and call someone?
“Sometimes it is just more convenient,” said Marissa Berkowitz, 19, a sophomore at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey in Galloway Township. “Even though calling people gets the point across with little to no misunderstanding, text messaging is sometimes more convenient when you’re running to class or someone you need to talk to is not able to pick up their phone.”
“You can text ‘Spiderman 3, 3 o’clock.?’ and send that same message to all of your friends,” Rudman said. “Instead of calling each person and saying, ‘Hey Sarah, want to go see “Spiderman-3”?’ Teenagers are all about efficiency.”
Texting has risen to a sport worthy of competition. Morgan Pozgar, 13, of Claysburg, Pa., recently took first prize in the LG National Texting Championship held in New York.
“I mostly text my friends, I’ll text my dad,” Pozgar said in a telephone interview Thursday. “I don’t know why. Mostly, it’s if I don’t feel like talking, or some people just keep on texting me. In a day, I probably send a few hundred.”
At the competition, Pozgar had to text phrases that appeared on TV monitors in a 10-second time frame.
Pozgar won the $25,000 prize — and quickly found herself a media texting star — with her winning phrase of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidoucious!”
“A lot of the people were older, in their 20s,” Pozgar said. “One of the guys was like, ‘I can’t believe I got beat by a little girl.’”
“They’re growing up in a world where there’s so many things going on — we call it brain blur — just constantly bombarded by so many things,” Rudman said. “They’re text messaging while watching TV, while playing a game on the computer and doing their homework. Well, that’s a lot of things going on there. They don’t have the time or inclination to work hard on a form of communication. The easier, the better.”
? — I have a question or I don’t understand
@TEOTD — At the end of the day
.02 — My (or your) two cents worth
2G2BT — Too good to be true
2MI — Too much information
411 — Meaning “information”
4COL — For crying out loud
AYTMTB — And you’re telling me this because … ?
ROTFLBO — Rolling on the floor, laughing my butt off
BF or GF — Boyfriend or girlfriend
BFF — Best friend forever
CUL8R — See you later
GIAR — Give it a rest
GOI — Get over it
H2CUS — Hope to see you soon
He should GIAR and GOI — He should give it a rest and get over it
HRU? — How are you?
JMO — Just my opinion
LTNS — Long time, no see
MUSM — Miss you so much
NW! — No way!
OMG — Oh my God
PRW or POS — Parents are watching or parent over shoulder
RUOK? — Are you OK?
SIG2R — Sorry, I got to run
TTYL —Talk to you later
UGTBK — You’ve got to be kidding
WDYT? — What do you think?