tis txtn time!

tis txtn time!

Liz Whitehead

tis txtn time!When we look at what’s hot and what’s not with young people in our youth groups today, one thing that most inevitably have is a mobile phone. And what is that phone mostly used for? Txtn!

This is how many young people keep in touch. The phone is small enough to fit in the pocket and you hear an incessant tune as a txt arrives (beep beep). The sneaky ones set it to vibrate in class so the teacher can’t hear it.

The txt message is a major change to the way information is shared. An example of its effectiveness is the use of txt by students during the recentteacher’s strike. Young people from different schools would txt each other so they knew when the protest marches would be at their school’s front gate, so they could immediately join in.

The txt can instant’y change the entire day’s plan of a young person. If they are bored. they may find that, with a few strokes of a cell phone key pad from a friend. they have an offer of something more interesting and are off to do the new thing.

From my own experience with txtn, I have noticed that it doesn’t matter where you are or what time of day it is, conversations in this new language take place in parallel with verbal ones; and txt conversations tend to take priority. If you are out with someone and their phone receives a txt they will – more often that not – automatically check to see who it is and what they want. Some people may find this very rude, and yet I know that even l am guilty of this.

So why can we not resist immediately reading a txt? Is it simply a desire to look popular? Is it the hope for a spur- of-the-moment change of plans to something more exciting? I am not exactly sure. More likely, the appeal of txt may simply lie in the fact that it is quick and cheap; another by-product of our instant society. With all our time and money pressures we don’t even call people anymore; we resortto extreme abbreviation.

What does this change in communication mean for us as youth leaders? Well, I have found txt to be an excellent way to keep in touch with young people. If I want to meet with some of them for coffee, I just txt them and arrange it. It’s fast, it’s instant and it has changed us to an even more on-committal society. Txt at 2pm and meet at 3pm.

Aside from the philosophical questions, it is important to learn to decipher txtn, as it is a language of its own. Here are a couple of examples of txt language.

This is from a young person:

Liz dis b ina jus wntn 2 no if I can com wid u 2mora if I can, plz ring me1

This is from a colleague:

Hey r u @ the ofce? I b l8, wanna do lnch, plz w8 5 me thx.2

Sometimes it is a case of “cracking the code”. but it is worth it to keep up with your young people and be able to offer ministry to them in a new way in a context that they like.

How long will the txt craze last? Who knows? Already there are mobile phones that can send photos to others with the same technology, check email and play games, such as snakes. tennis and solitaire. 1 guess this is in the hands of the creative people atthe phone companies!


Liz Whitehead is the Youth Ministry Co-ordinator for the Auckland Presbytry.

1 Hey Liz, this be [is] Ina. Just wanting to know if 1 can come with you tomorrow? If l can, please ring me.

2 Hey, are you at the office? I’ll be late. Want to do lunch? Please wait for me. Thanks.