When I was in school – and dinosaurs roamed the earth – everyone took a class called typewriting 101. We wrote about the quick brown fox and lazy dog using our eight fingers without hardly any effort from our thumbs. My right thumb was responsible for only one button – the space bar. My left thumb had the day off.
Today kids learn keyboarding and have probably never laid eyes on a typewriter, but the bulk of their typing isn’t done on either and typically involves nearly zero finger participation. That’s because the hipsters among us don’t type anymore; we text. And most pro-texters rely solely on the nimbleness and agility of their thumbs to get their messages across.
They are good at it. Thumb texters demonstrate dexterity and speed. They can fire off messages in just a few seconds. One lucky guy even has a place in the “Guinness Book of World Records” for being the fastest texter on the planet. My son competently and confidently texts while holding his phone in his pocket (with his eyes closed). True talents run deep.
While my phone possesses an elevated I.Q. and I have unlimited texting available with my family plan, my thumbs are neither nimble nor agile. They seem opposed to my best texting efforts, proving themselves clumsy and bumbling and unable to type a well-spelled word, much less an entire message. Even auto-correct thwarts my best attempts.
I am all thumbs when it comes to graceful and accurate text messaging. This could be a good thing, since thumbs are required for the task, but mine are uncoordinated and incapable of hitting the correct key – even if their nails depended on it.
Happily, I’ve found a way to circumvent my contextual inabilities and increase the likelihood of communicating with my teenagers via the latest acronyms, which is both GR8 and FAB, if you know what I mean. The magic lies in a simple instrument called a stylus.
The little pen-like doohickey comes equipped with a rubber tip that works like a finger on the touchscreen of a smartphone – with more accuracy than my thumbs could ever hope for. My stylus makes my lumbering thumbs irrelevant and turns me into somewhat of a textpert. At least it puts me in contact with my kids.
I predict soon others may want a stylus or three for their very own. I say this because thumb texting comes with risks for pain, injury and other serious ailments. There’s even an official condition called texting thumb, which is similar to tennis elbow but without the racket or balls.
Texting thumb is a repetitive stress injury that develops over time. The muscles and anatomy of the thumb were designed for gripping and work in opposition to the rest of the hand. The fine motor skills required for texting are taxing and can result in irritation and inflammation. There’s not much LOL in that.
If you haven’t yet developed stylus envy but want to avoid texting thumb, the Internet suggests you consider a workout routine. For your thumb. This includes thumb massage to increase flexibility and strength training using an invention called thumbbells, which are little weights that look like dumbbells – for the thumb. The product promises to make your fattest opposable digit a lean, mean texting machine. Honestly, I couldn’t make this stuff up.
I don’t have any lofty ideas about speed texting or whipping my thumbs into Olympic condition. My phone may be smart, speedy and super efficient, but my thumbs never will be. I’m okay with that. Besides, I’ve got my own brand of cool and for now I’m satisfied to be simply styling with my stylus.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, playwright and author of “The Do-It-Yourselfer’s Guide to Self-Syndication.” You can read more and follow her column on the Slices of Life page on Facebook.