Girl's 22,795 Messages Nothing to Celebrate

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This story about a 12-year-old Indiana girl is quickly becoming a cliché ... and not a flattering one in terms of what it says about our society. This girl, you see, is one of those texting prodigies -- a Mozart who's all thumbs; the type our always-on culture has not only come to produce but to celebrate.

From The (Muncie) Star Press: "Her father's last Verizon Wireless bill showed that her previous 30-day texting tabulation hit a whopping 22,795 messages. 'All I could say was, Thank God I get free text messaging,'" said Dad.

As a reader of my blog noted, the 22,795 figure isn't quite as impressive -- if that's the word you choose to use -- as it might appear at first blush, since it includes 301 picture texts, 743 sent text messages, and 21,751 received.

Nevertheless, Dad's math pegged the stream as "one text message every 113 seconds."

As I noted, you've read this story before. I saw it on public display recently when I took my three 7-year-olds to see their first high-school basketball game. The stands of the small-town gym were packed, the action on the court non-stop, and every other teenager was busy texting someone something every other minute. (My kids were obsessed with the snacks, but that's another story.) I was already aware, of course, that teens and texting are inseparable, but I don't spend much time around them so this was a rare chance to observe the phenomenon up close and personal. ... They missed a great game, even though the home team lost by a point.

Back to Indiana: What particularly struck me about that story was not the magnitude of the girl's texting prowess, but rather the casual acceptance of it by her father and the congratulatory tone taken by the writer.

From the story: "So what's the secret to her rapid-fire technique? 'I can text one-handed, but I usually use both because it's easier," she said, adding that she can also text when doing other things. Homework while texting? Sure. Eating while texting? No problem. Brushing her teeth while texting? 'Never tried that,' she admitted."

It took a reader's comment posted at the bottom of the story to offer the perspective that neither the child, her Dad nor the reporter could muster: "What a pathetic story! This is what is happening to our society -- why don't we all withdraw within the confines of our cell phones and spend all of our time texting ... and quit openly socializing with others."

Harsh? Lighten up, you say? I say parents should exercise a bit more parental control.

The day after I expressed that opinion on Buzzblog, I received a telephone call from the Dad in question. He, as you might expect, was not exactly brimming with gratitude for my unsolicited advice or appreciative of the way I had characterized his daughter's texting habits. He wanted me to know that she is a wonderful girl who does extremely well in school and church, and that the texting -- while seemingly excessive on the surface -- was actually saving the family money on long-distance phone charges.

I got his point ... but didn't back off mine.

Saturday night I was at a restaurant with my daughter, Emma, when a party of nine -- including four teen-age girls -- took up the table across from ours. Before the waiter could even hand them menus, all four were furiously texting, whether to each other or others I could not tell.

Glad I wasn't picking up that tab.

Need to call me a curmudgeon? The address is

This story, "Girl's 22,795 Messages Nothing to Celebrate" was originally published by Network World.

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