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Dublin: 8 °C Tuesday 13 November, 2018
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'Sorry, my hands are too small': Why I can no longer maintain conversations via text

It’s a surfboard, to be honest.

IT WAS A long time coming, but a week ago my phone finally decided to leave this world and journey onto the next.

phone2 Source: Shutterstock

After weeks of freezing under my touch and accidentally (or purposely, who knows?) turning itself off, my phone decided we’d had a good run, and promptly threw itself overboard.

And while I had spent months cursing its mercurial temperament, lack of storage and appalling camera, I was left bereft. Unlike other forward-thinking people, I don’t use the iCloud – it’s a tinfoil hat thing – so I lost almost everything. 

But that’s not the worst of it. In fact, I think I’d recover from that loss pretty quickly if I could just use my new phone with anything that even remotely resembles ease.

But it’s too big, my hands are too small, the surface is too slippy, and frankly it looks (and feels) like I’m trying to text on a surfboard.

In fact, my recent attempts to communicate with a friend saw me accused of gross intoxication. And FYI, it was because my spelling was so poor, not because I was explaining why you can’t trust the iCloud (or anyone, for that matter.)

I can’t stretch my fingers across the keyboard comfortably nor can I adjust my hand in any way to facilitate the creation of a message that doesn’t look like it was written by a drunker version of myself.

In order to use my phone right now, I need to use two hands, sit very still and hope for the best.

phone1 Source: Shutterstock

As a result, my phone usage has plummeted in recent days. Previously, I would hold conversations on WhatsApp which would last hours, simultaneously messaging multiple people while checking in and out of social media.

Now, however, I have to really consider whether what I want to say warrants the stress of using this surfboard – sorry – this phone.

And it reminded me of my first foray into the world of texting in the early noughties when my Nokia 5110 (oh yes, I was in this game before the 3210 even dropped) was my ticket to the wider world: a ticket that led me down an extraordinarily stressful path.

I mean, remember the way…

  • Texts cost 10p a pop
    Yet no matter how diligently you monitored your texting, you always ran out of credit before you expected to. It was then you realised you had been charged for two texts when your last one ran into the dreaded second message territory without you realising it. 
  • ‘WB’ was the obligatory sign-off
    The idea of spending 10p and then hearing nothing back was outrageous, so lest there be any confusion, you ordered your mate to ‘WB’.  You weren’t made of money.
  • You had to count your characters
    Like Twitter, you kept an eye on the digits on the top right corner of the screen to ensure you didn’t accidentally slide into your second message. Beads of sweats would pop on your brow as you saw the figure rapidly decrease before you’d even gotten to the most important part of your correspondence.
  •  You became so creative with your shorthand 
    Texts weren’t the platform for laborious prose – something you quickly learned when you wasted 50p explaining what happened in French class to your mate who bunked off. Texts in the early noughties were a need-to-know exercise.  Were they drinking? Would they get you drink? Is Cadet still going for cheap in the newsagents? ‘Ag ól? Sorting me? Cadet?’ 
  • Your inbox would hold 25 messages max 
    You couldn’t receive new messages until you emptied your inbox of a few dud texts  in order to let the new ones flood in. You generally kept at least one message from each member of the squad – just respect, you know? – and then you held onto any correspondence that made you look cool, desired or hilarious. It was just the law.

The amount of concentration that went into communicating with your friends was extraordinary. 

Could you afford it? Would they understand your shorthand? Was there any chance they’d been snared by their mam because she knew what ‘ag ól’ meant considering she was Irish and all?

In 2001, ‘I had no credit’ was a totally justified excuse for not writing back, as was saying your mam had confiscated your phone.

In 2018, my excuse for not ‘WB’ is that my hands are too small.

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About the author:

Niamh McClelland

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