I didn’t say he stole the car.

I had an argument with someone yesterday and neither one of us knew what the other person was even saying.

I don’t buy into the fact that texting is robbing our kids of the ability to communicate.  I text, I know a lot of people who text and a lot of kids who text.  But when something funny happens they don’t say “L-O-L”, they actually laugh.  So for now, I think we’re safe.

As far as I can tell the actual problem with texting is the same as with any other form of print communication.  The problem is that you lose all sense of inflection.

And without knowing knowing how someone is speaking we won’t know what they’re saying.

For example, put emphasis on the words in bold…..

  • I didn’t say that he stole the car.
  • I didn’t say that he stole the car.
  • I didn’t say that he stole the car.
  • I didn’t say that he stole the car.
  • I didn’t say that he stole the car.
  • I didn’t say that he stole the car.

One sentence, eight words and five completely different meanings.  But you’d never know what someone was saying if it was only in print.

So what happens?  When we don’t understand what someone is saying we make an assumption and get mad, or get our feelings hurt, or jump to conclusions.  And that’s to be expected.  I imagine that’s probably happened for a lot longer than teenagers have been texting.

But maybe that isn’t the real danger.  Maybe the real problem is that we get so used to assigning meaning to other people’s words that we start doing it all the time.

When we’re talking to the people we don’t like at work, to the kid at school who’s more athletic or prettier than us, or to that cute girl we want to ask out….maybe we just start assigning meaning to what they say, good or bad.

The guy at work that we don’t like always has bad ideas, when he doesn’t.  The kids at school are always making fun of us, when they’re not.  And the pretty girl isn’t interested, when she is.

Because we’ve decided that we have a better idea of what people are thinking than they do.

It’s understandable when it happens in print.  It causes problems, sure, but those are expected and easily fixed.

But when we start assigning our own value to other people’s words, they’re going to be telling us exactly what we expect to hear.