Big Questions

Digital Life: My kid sends me text messages that I can usually figure out. But seriously, how hard should it be for her to write a complete sentence?

My kid sends me text messages that I can usually figure out. But seriously, how hard should it be for her to write a complete sentence?

Three or four years ago, I started to notice people beginning their spoken sentences with “so”— as in, “So I was just sitting there minding my own business.” Once you pick up on it, you hear it everywhere. Words and the way we use them change, and sometimes that change is driven by technology.

The shortcoming of our current devices is that they can’t capture the subtle intonations and body language we use with each other in person. Trying to do so would take forever if we’re typing on our phones with only our thumbs! So we compensate. We add emojis and take liberties with the way we write. Some people—especially those we’ve labeled “millennials”—are way beyond the fairly self-explanatory “idk” (I don’t know) or “imho” (in my humble opinion).

For example, the personal pronoun “I” is sometimes left lowercase to play down the person’s sense of self. To show excitement, punctuation is left out entirely. When punctuation or capitalization are used, the writer is expressing finality or something less than positive (as in “okay then if You say so.”). A new shorthand is emerging—shorthand with feeling that attempts to build community in an increasingly virtual world.

But just because the “cool kids” are doing it doesn’t mean the rest of us have to. Every time I call my oldest son I begin with, “Morgen, this is Dad”—to which he replies, “Yeah, I can see that.” Of course I know that he can see who is calling on his phone, but I’ll never get tired of hearing myself claim him as my son.

Bottom line: Unless it’s an English assignment or a résumé, stay flexible about how your daughter communicates. Just be glad she’s sending you anything at all.

About the Author

Dean Heetderks is co-director of Ministry Support Services of the Christian Reformed Church. He attends Covenant Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich.

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