What took you so long?

At some point in my life, writing was a serious profession I considered in my day dreams. The inspirations were myriad, as with most young adults, ranging from JK Rowling to Tolkien to Asimov and beyond. My mom instilled an unending fascination for English crime novels in me, so I was able to add Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie to the list as well (yes, Poirot was Belgian, I know). I wrote long and arduous essays on word files that I’d been inspired with in the bathroom that morning. I created a blog to express those incredibly malnourished skills to the world and receive some criticism. But, as they say, nothing lasts long. Life took over and I abandoned all attempts at keeping a well stocked website to track my writing prowess (or lack of it). It was rekindled a little in college when I resorted to typing out my incredible frustration at the Indian education system, but in retrospect, it was a massive spurt of my own untamed sarcasm splashing the pages and being edited into some semblance of the written word.

WordPress tells me it has been 4+ years since the last time my thoughts were put on paper on a public website. That is not to say that I don’t write long, convoluted monographs to satisfy my towering hubris in private, but what little I’ve put up online since then has been in small blurbs on Twitter or completely anonymous comments/posts on reddit. So when the shadow of a muse suddenly found its way into my head the other day, I took some notice unlike the previous instances when I dismissed it to concentrate on more character building projects such as binge watching shows on Netflix or attempting for the umpteenth time to set up Arch Linux on a VM after forgetting all the pitfalls I cleared the previous million times I applied myself to the task.

It isn’t easy to pick up the (proverbial) pen after so long and try to write something whimsical that I’d be happy with. It is similarly difficult to actually select a topic and hope to write something palatable to even myself at a future date. The random 2-3 people who have actually read this blog in the past have lauded my attempts at ranting and raving about life in general, but I believe I’ve grown out of the phase. In conclusion, after 3 paragraphs of meandering, I have to conclude that writing sarcastic posts is not my thing any more. I would rather attempt to channel my inner philosopher and observer and try to write about the little vagaries of life than continue to put down my cynical thoughts. This decision is driven by more than just my own maturity. In attempting to find the truth on my own, I realised sometime last year that I’ve gone way past what my college self would’ve defined as “loony” and landed firmly into the crazy camp of ideas.

But enough of the drivel of growing up. Suffice it to say I am not the same person I was when I wrote some of my previous blog posts that I spent some (very cringey) time reading today. To inaugurate my brief return to the realm of virtual banalities, I must get on with getting on.

 

The Vagaries of Texting

To say that everyone “texts” in today’s world is akin to saying people breathe to live. It is patently impossible to avoid the written communication form, which itself is simply a shortened real time extension of the letter writing days of yore. But unlike having a pen pal, people don’t think of texting (or even email) as a character building exercise in any sense. Now, it is possible that no one has given it much thought … rather than having considered it and dismissed it with the adverse conclusion due to such patently primitive notions as “nothing replaces face to face communication”. However, let’s assume the latter is the case and allow me to write a blog post expounding on my fascination.

The millenial generation has been “texting” for the greater part of the past 20 years. We took to it faster than our parents, which some would consider natural. Let me point out an opposite situation – email. If your parents were working through the nineties and noughties, they almost definitely started emailing long before you did. So why is it that we picked up texting so quickly? After texting plans became prevalent to the extent of “100 SMS/day free” or more, we ravaged the medium like it was nobody’s business. I submit that texting has built character for our generation, just like having a pen pal relationship was a big deal until the 1980s or so.

Now I hear you asking, “how are you even comparing the two? One is a medium for writing essay length compendium of thoughts and ideas, while the other is a fast moving and incredibly ethereal medium of sharing quips”. I believe it was Shakespeare who said, “Brevity is the soul of wit”. And what greater example of it is there in the modern era than Twitter. Incidentally, Twitter started off with the ability to receive updates using text messages from the handle owners (hence the initial 140 character limit).

So what has texting achieved for us? Nothing in itself. However, it was a prelude to other more complex means of instant messaging such as Yahoo Messenger and its modern variants. The new paradigm with these extensions to texting was that there was now an anonymous way to meet people online and exchange ideas. The progress from there has been breathtaking – from Hangouts and Skype to Slack and its copies.

Still not getting to the point, am I? Very well, here it is – in all the years that I’ve progressed along with every other millenial through these technologies in turn, I have gained what can only be described as a transcendent level of communication. At an asynchronous pace, I have kept up with people, their arguments, their thought processes, the media they share and I don’t even know what else. In the middle of exchanging profanities with random strangers, I discovered people in passing whose influence on my thought process was imprinted despite their anonymity.

The written word has always been one of the most powerful of mediums. It is no wonder that Gutenberg’s printing press is considered one of the most pivotal inventions in human history. Some people argue that, similar to reading, the next skill we’ll need to get out of our ignorant adolescence as a civilisation is to learn to code. But that is a different topic for a later time.

Texting has taken the writing medium to its logical real time conclusion, and I personally think this is just the beginning i.e. this real time, possibly asynchronous, duplex communication style will flower into something we cannot even imagine at this moment. Personally, I hope there’s at least one more revolution to the medium within my lifetime, just so I can revel in the innovative new paradigm.

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