Or txtspk I suppose, only, do so many people really use textspeak anymore, and therefore, is textspeak perhaps now more appropriate? I was thinking about this recently when someone communicated with me in classic txtspk, as in things like hi how r u, I wnt 2 da suprkmarkt 2day, it was gr8! It surprised me, partly because it wasn’t in a context in which I’d normally expect to encounter textspeak. Mostly though, it surprised me because it made me realise that I hadn’t come across someone using textspeak in a long time…
Partly I’m sure that’s due to my age. I simply don’t communicate much, in written form, with anyone young enough to communicate in such a hip abbreviated form. But I don’t think that explains it enough. I’m still young enough that many of my peers when we were in our teens and early twenties would have communicated with me in this way. I never reciprocated, but I definitely received messages in textspeak.
Funnily enough, I wouldn’t really mind getting such messages now. When I was younger, I hated textspeak. I hated how lazy it seemed, and how I had to take time to understand it. Mostly though, I was just being pretentious and self-righteous. Looking back, I can see how, with older mobile phones using numerical keypads, it was generally so much quicker and easier to use abbreviations. And to be honest, it was never really that hard to understand. In fact, what I actually admire about it was how most people were able to instantly pinpoint which features of a word were needed to make it understood.
Now you might have a legitimate argument if you complain about people using textspeak on social media in the years when most of its interactions were done on computers, before the advent of smartphones. Cycling through individual letters on a keypad on a phone could take forever, but typing on a keyboard can be done so quickly that textspeak on a computer didn’t save you so much time. So in that case, it does seem lazy. I get that. Still though, imagine someone growing up as a teen texting, and then getting their own laptop and spending all their time on this new thing called social media. I don’t think you can entirely blame someone for continuing to use a writing system that they’d got used to over a number of years.
But, you might say, isn’t textspeak ruining English? Maybe. There are lot of differing opinions out there. Doubtless it might affect some people’s ability to spell words correctly. But some research suggests that it might actually help spelling, as people need to know how to spell words in the first place in order to then abbreviate them, and coming up with abbreviations makes you consciously think about how they’re properly spelled. Plus, textspeak doesn’t really alter grammar: just spelling.
But as I said, that’s all academic, because I feel that people don’t use it much anymore. And I think that’s mainly due to smartphones. The big advantage they have over old mobile phones is of course the full keyboard. I don’t find it nearly as easy to use as a computer keyboard, but I much prefer it to a numerical keypad. The main disadvantages for me are the size of the keys relative to the size of my fingers, and my spatial awareness, and the need to tap each one individually. But of course the manufacturers thought of that, and provided us with the wonderful gift of AutoCorrect! Now you just have to get close enough to spelling something correctly, and your phone will fix it for you. Thus, why I think people don’t use textspeak much anymore. They just need to quickly stab a few related keys, and the computer will figure the rest out and produce a properly-spelled word.
And I’m not really sure how I feel about that. The big advantage to this system is that you’re exposed to correct spellings. You don’t have to type words correctly, so it’s not the best way to learn, but constantly being exposed to correct spelling will help most people improve eventually. Still though, I can’t get quite past not having to actually type things correctly. You see, whenever I write anything on my phone, I make an effort to type every letter individually. Even if it’s a long word and the phone gives it to me as a suggestion after three letters, I still want to type out the whole word, no matter the temptation. Sometimes I admit that I’ll mess up the first half of the word, and then count on getting the second half right enough for AutoCorrect to do the rest. Usually though, I’m too proud not to try to do it all myself. I don’t want the phone correcting it for me, because it feels patronising, and it doesn’t really feel like it’s me writing.
Maybe I’m just a Luddite, and maybe I’m just pretentious in wanting to write everything myself. And perhaps too I’m worried that I’ll stop thinking of words entirely and just go with whatever AutoCorrect suggests after I type in one word. Maybe that’d be an interesting article some day: one written entirely by AutoCorrect, apart from the first word. It might be dull and entirely too revealing of my search history, but @ lst it wudnt b in txtspk lol by :-P.