To a Text Message, on its 20th Birthday

The text message is a real grownup now, turning 20 years old on this very day. How can it be?!

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Dear Text Message,

We hear you're a real grownup now, turning 20 years old on this very day. How can it be?! It seems like only yesterday that you were just taking your first few toddling steps into this modern world. We remember it well (or Wikipedia does, at least, and that's basically the same thing). On December 3, 1992 (yes, you're a Sagittarius), Neil Papworth sent you to the cellphone of Richard Jarvis over the Vodaphone GSM network in the UK. You said "Merry Christmas." You were able to communicate at such a young age! We were all stunned and admiring.

Well, actually, many of us had no idea yet of your power and skill and soon-to-be-realized impact, as we were still using Mom and Pop's rotary-dial phone-with-a-cord or perhaps had upgraded to giant cordless phones. We wouldn't even attempt to engage with you until you could talk in complete sentences, but we would someday be stunned and admiring. Later, we would just be like, O.K., I'm sending a text, and then, as these things go, we'd start to take you for granted, or even feel resentful. You started to seem a little old. Where was the thrill you used to impart? Why was delivery taking so long? Come on, you were just a text! We'd start to type into you, willy-nilly, without care for what we said or who we hurt, or what spelling mistakes we might make (in later years, you learned to correct us, or at least, our phones did, and corrected you, too, which was nice—we all learned a little something, didn't we? Though, for the last time, Bushwick is not bush buck!). And in fairness, maybe some of that later-onset ennui wasn't about you at all. Maybe it was about who we were texting. That, thank goodness, is a fact lost to time, unlike you.

The point is, in a lot of ways, we grew up together. You got more sophisticated and lost your childhood clumsiness, attaching yourself to ever more accessories, bells, and whistles; we upgraded our phones and learned about OMGs and LOLs and emoticons and emojis. We added photos, sometimes, when it seemed the right thing to do. Throughout it all, you were there, reliable, except occasionally when you were not. You are an old friend, no matter how many times we've said, "Do NOT let me text ____ tonight. Seriously, take my phone away from me!" but then texted ____ anyway, and texted some more, and then woke up with a horrible headache only made more horrible by the web of regret clinging to our psyches. We looked at you then, when we could bear it, and, OH GOD, yes. We said THAT. And THAT. When we could bear no more remembering we shut you off, possibly deleting the record of our transgressions, because it could be good for no one to remember. It can't have been healthy for you, either.

But you survived! You're a year away from legal drinking in the United States, now, though we're sure you've had a taste now and again, and, in fact, we're pretty sure we let you borrow our fake I.D. and you never gave it back. That's the only explanation for those times you made your way out there, during our post-graduate days of late nights and later mornings. Sometimes you could be cranky, and prone to fights. Once or twice we had to turn you off entirely, to keep you from doing something that we'd regret, and sometimes we didn't, and, as previously mentioned, regretted. Occasionally, we lost you—lost our phones, that is, and therefore our ability to use you. That may have been for the best. We eventually always got you back.

All in all it's been a good ride. Now Apple converts, we tend to use iMessage more than we do old SMS, but that doesn't mean you don't have a place in our hearts, or that we'll ever forget you. Well, maybe we'll forget you, someday, when we're communicating by chips implanted in our brains and you seem as old as cave etchings or constitutional amendments drafted on tea-stained parchments. But right now, tons of people still love you and use you all the time, and everywhere—inside, outside, while walking, even while talking! You're cheap, relatively speaking—or not speaking, GET IT? You're easy. You allow us to communicate without using our precious voices or a pen, and that comes in particularly handy when we have laryngitis, or when we are without pens. Who ever has pens? You've done the lord's work for years: Think of how many meetings and/or booty calls would have failed to exist but for you! How many awkward second dates would have had to exist except that you simply never arrived, resulting in a flurry of secondary texts to our friends to discuss ad nauseam the behavior of the person who never texted, whom we rather expected to hear from, if only out of politeness? You were only doing us a favor, though, it's easy to see that now.

Nearly everyone can send you, except for my brother, who is weird and doesn't have text messaging capabilities, but I digress. You're universal! You're great. Your overages have made our phone companies billions of dollars. And until you enter into an eventual, well-deserved retirement, it's a pretty sure bet we'll still be returning to you over and over again for our communication needs. For who's a jolly good fellow? You are.


Your Beloved Verizon Customer

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.