A week or so ago, Brooke's dad (who has just recently learned to send text messages) called Brooke with this question: "When do I know to stop texting?"
Um, LOL? But seriously, it's not a bad question. Certain situations are easier than others. Like when you text a girl at 2:00 a.m. "Want to meet up?" and she texts back "Already home – maybe brunch tomorrow?" obviously the conversation is over.
But by and large the medium is a tricky format. Whereas you can ignore a phone call or put off responding to an e-mail, the whole point of a text message is instant communication. Once you have engaged in a conversation, you can't very well ignore it at will. Like this actual text conversation from a few months ago:
11:02 p.m. Friend: "Dude, did you watch Lost?"
11:04 p.m. Me: "Yeah. This show is going bonkers."
11:05 p.m. Friend: "I know. What's with all the insane time travel shit?"
(the next morning)
10:31 a.m. Me: "It's nuts."
10:33 a.m. Friend: "What?"
10:37 a.m. Me: "The time travel on Lost. It's crazy."
10:38 a.m. Friend: "You're an asshole."
But because husband and wife writer team Evie and Jack Shoeman are the only ones willing to write the definitive Text Messaging Survival Guide (Sally thought she knew what 'TTYL' meant. Sally was wrong – dead wrong), newcomers to text-messaging, particularly those who may be accustomed to the politesse of phone call sign-offs like "Goodbye" or "Go to hell, crap bag!", are left floundering to decipher the rules. (Like how when my mom first started instant messaging she would finish every message with "Love, Mom." Like "Good morning, Dan! Love, Mom.")
And when they go to more experienced texters for guidance (like Brooke's dad did), novices are met with confused looks or pitiful head-tilts meant to convey a sympathetic appreciation for the quaint notion that there are no stupid questions, only stupid people who are afraid to ask questions, because boy that was a stupid question.
(Note: Brooke's dad is in white, and hasn't yet figured out auto-spelling or how to punctuate.)
But the thing it, it's not a stupid question! Think about it: When do you know to stop texting? It's like the old, "I love you," "No, I love you," "You hang up first," "No, you hang up first!" conversation which goes back and forth until someone literally drowns in a saccharine mess of high fructose corny syrup. The short one-liners and cute sign-offs could go on ad infinitum. Even practiced texters have trouble determining the end point of a conversation, like when girls fret over a guy they like who isn't texting them back even though the last thing they wrote to them was "Bye." "But it's his turn!" they might say, as though there is some huge scoreboard that keeps track of who texted whom last and all text message sign-offs are mere place holders in the time-space continuum for one eternal conversation to pause and resume.
No, I like it better Brooke's dad's way.