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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

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In the Suburbs /Texting is often just inappropriate

Published 12:05 pm, Thursday, March 27, 2014
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I chuckled recently when I read a feature in The New York Times about the growing use of text messages to acknowledge the deaths of friends' loved ones.

Typical messages include bland one liners expressing sorrow for one's loss or admitting that the writer didn't know what to say.

More surprising was an undertaker's report that a deceased woman's son asked him to text a photo of his mother's corpse. That was a bit much for me, but the mortician -- while taken aback -- complied.

While I find texting condolences totally inappropriate, I suppose that people of all ages these days are simply unable -- or won't take the time -- to conduct a real conversation about it.

Of course, the sender should check in advance to see if the person in mourning even accepts texts.

Undelivered texts can be a real hassle.

Just this week, I learned that families of missing Flight 370 passengers had received texts from the Malaysian government alerting them about the loss of victims. The government said it texted families to provide them first-hand information. That was in poor taste.

Texting has become my preferred method of communication during a normal business day; I've adopted it to reach a lot of people unobtrusively.

Texting allows me to send messages late in the evening if I need answers to pressing questions the next morning.

It allows me to work in a public place without being disruptive. And I can forward images to clients or friends.

Unfortunately, being the long-winded guy I am, I have often fallen into the trap of sending texts that are too long.

Those appear as different messages in a long string of correspondence. And people lsuch as my niece in Chicago have dubbed me "The Windbag" or "Mr. Texty" to get me to shorten my texts.

Some people who text me need to shorten up, too. Those long messages have definitely cured me of writing too many long-winded epistles.

Up-and-coming 20-omethings like texting, and lately, since I am working with an increasing number of young clients, I find more texts than emails.

Given how many emails are still in my inbox everyday, I just find it much easier these days to simply text quick messages.

These messages are helpful when I have a lot of information to gather about a public-relations client. I can raise two or three key questions and pull together a press announcement or backgrounder much more efficiently.

I never use texting for get-well messages, condolences or congratulations. I still enjoy calling, even if I have to leave a voice mail. I hope I'm not alone in that practice. And I would never insult a potential employer by texting a thank you note.

Recently, I heard on the radio about another valuable reason for texting. Some hotels do not allow guests to call 911 directly in emergencies.

But if a guest can text a close friend or colleague when there is an emergency or even use a local 911 number on the phone, perhaps lives could be saved.

I get a kick out of watching others text in in public places such as restaurants, but I feel sorry for the texterss dates or spouses, who have to just sit there.

Texting will never match a vocal expression of condolence or joy.

But as people's lives get more chaotic and communication less personal, I fear that reaching for the keypad is replacing the human connection.

Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his "In the Suburbs" appears each Friday. He can be reached at: steven.gaynes@yahoo.com.