I saw a news story on-line last night about a new service that allows you to go straight to voicemail without running the risk of actually having to talk to someone you call.
The service, by the way, is called Slydial. It either subjects you to a short advertisement or a nominal fee: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/21/AR2008072102493.html
I think everyone *gets* what this is all about. I don't necessarily think there's anything *sly* or fake or shady at all about it -- in myriad personal or professional situations, there are perfectly good reasons not to want to get into a phone conversation. Maybe you're about to get in your car and drive, maybe you need to run to a meeting, or maybe you really just don't feel like talking at the moment, but need to just convey some information.
I guess the major advantage here over text messages is that you can get a lot out plenty faster. As a fairly recent convert (but a zealous one at that) to the text world, I know I used to find them highly annoying because of the time they required of me to type what I could say in just a couple seconds. Another advantage might be a linguistic one -- if you speak a foreign langugage that doesn't use the Roman alphabet, you ain't going to be able to text message unless you're sure you can transliterate in a mutually intelligible way.
But anyway just hearing about Slydial reminded me of why I love texting so much in the first place.
Let's go back to the blog themes. For now, we'll shelve the "it's-difficult-to-be-in-charge-but-really-easy-to-sit-in-the-back-and-take-pot-shots-at-the-guy-who-is" theme and just go with the other two big ones -- (1) social connectedness and (2) keeping your footprint light when you can.*
*I'll use this theme in the future to talk about two major counterinsurgencies the U.S. is helping to fight but that you might not fully appreciate in scope -- Colombia and the Philippines.
Text messages are simultaneously a great tool for connectedness and a super-non-intrusive sort of way to do it. They're cheap and dispensable so they don't necessarily *beg* a response the way a phone call or e-mail usually does. They also save all parties the tremendous hassle of trying to carry on a conversation amidst overwhelming background noise, like at an airport, a club, bar, or baseball game.
They convey information in a way that voicemails or phone calls don't always do, thanks to poor explanation/enunciation (as I wrote about in an earlier entry, I think the single best one-word piece of advice I would give a young person entering the real world is this -- 'enunciate.') I'm not kidding about that -- full enunciation not only makes you sound smarter and more confident, it makes you far easier on the ears of others around you.
Texts aren't perfect -- they may be too impersonal for certain situations, they can be strangely ambiguous sometimes (as they're obviously lacking in tone, inflection, and true conversational flow), and they can be annoying when overdone.
However, there's just no better way to say, "We're here at the bar. If you can come, great."
That's a simple offer for all parties.
No one is forced anywhere, no one feels obligated to do anything, no one gets cornered.
I love it.