Last night I was huddling outside the grocery store on a cold and rainy evening, waiting for Kristin to pick me up, when Robert Harvey Harrison sent me a text message. And when I looked out again across the wet parking lot, searching for the familiar headlights of my Mitsubishi Montero, I was smiling.
The unique aspect of my moment outside the grocery store was that a text message reached a level of impact it doesn’t often attain. The text is an often misused and almost always overused form of communication. You have probably been trapped into the obligatory conversation with an acquaintance that over-texts: they include us in the celebration of their favorite team’s victory, they inform us of their current psychological state, they send messages like “wuts up wit u l8tly?” and expect an in-depth answer. And even I have been personally guilty of the “Evite” use of group texting.
But Bobby’s text message, in one unpunctuated and non-capitalized sentence, carried with it the three most important messages a friend needs to hear: “I care about you”, “I’m thinking of you”, and “You are important to me”. It was beautiful in its simplicity.
Text messaging is the sitcom of communication tools. It is the thirty-minute weekly show that requires periodic laughter and one big twist per conversation to sustain interest. And most users of text limit their purpose the same way that most television shows produce easy forms of entertainment. In the end, texting reveals the same weaknesses as a weekly sitcom: time limits, low expectations, and a tendency toward forced attempts at humor.
There are higher forms of communication beyond the instant gratification tool of text. Like a trusty favorite movie, an old friend can be called over and over again, without any need for the occasion other than a longing to hear that person’s voice. A phone call can make you laugh, it can make you cry, it can change your opinion – a phone call can frighten or calm, brighten or bore. And post offices do still exist for purposes beyond sponsoring Lance Armstrong’s bicycle endeavors. Like a good book, letter-writing requires a sustained focus for long periods of time. But, I doubt any text could ever compare to the joy of finding a tattered and bruised hand-written letter in the mailbox.
Even if we only have time to communicate through a hurried text message, remember that it is still a form of reaching out to another person. Creativity and thoughtfulness still carry the day, even on a one-inch square phone display. Bobby’s text proved to me that there is still the chance to make Friday Night Lights out of a weekly television show. There is still an opportunity to impact a friend you love.