Dave Coverly has a comic--sorry, I can't copy it--of a mother and two kids. The mother says, "When I was your age, I had to write in a style called 'cursive'." The two kids standing before her text messages to each other. The boy's text reads: WTH is mom saying? The girl texts back: IDK.
This comic strikes terror in my teacher's heart on so many levels I can hardly type fast enough.
First of all, my grandmother was a penmanship teacher. Cursive writing was her specialty. She lived to be ninety-six, and her handwriting was as beautiful at the end as you can imagine. Even strokes, lovely curves, not a wobble or hesitation in any letter. It was a work of art--something that is going to be lost, if not already, in the next decade--maybe forever. Even when people do not express themselves well in words, their penmanship can demand respect. Words are precious. A beautiful hand shows how each word is labored over.
Let's look at the male dumbhead in the comic next. He is so slovenly, that he expects his reader to know what he means by WTH. Sure, we can guess quickly enough, and some of these acronyms, BTW, are so well-known that they hardly need a second thought. But then again, what the heck/hell is a writer doing making his readers guess at his meaning! Wash ten hippos. Welcome thy highness. Where's the happiness? Wish to hiccup. Why try, hothead?
His sister is even worse. She can only manage the first letter of each word she wants to say, and she can't spell, so the reader is even more challenged.
Beyond these first reactions come deeper ones. They are in the same room, but they are not conversing. Texting is not conversation, it is flash messages. They don't respond to their mother. They don't even look at her or each other. They are incapable of any communication that is harder than a twitch of their fingers. They are conversational couch potatoes.
Their communication style, which is anemic, is nothing to their lack of cerebral activity. They are almost intellectually dead. They don't know what "cursive" is. They don't have enough curiosity to ask their mother to explain herself. They don't even have the intelligence to figure out that she is the one they should ask the question to. The boy at least has listened to his mother's statement enough to arouse some uneasiness, but the sister is a rock.
I hear statistics of how much time people are spending on these handheld weapons of mass social destruction. It is frightening. Will they get over the fad and reenter real human interaction? It is too soon to say, but it feels like an invasion of the mind snatchers?