My dad sometimes asks me when I am sending or happen to receive a text message, why I don't just actually call the person, and (gasp) talk to them?! Usually, I blow him off with something like, "because I don't feel like talking to them" or "because I am busy", but I have myself often wondered why it is that people text message when you could call, or even email.
Sure, sometimes, text messaging is the least obvious thing to do-say you are in class, or in a meeting, you can't really call someone. But there is more to it than that.
As a tool for communication, for those who use it, text messaging has two advantages over email and phones. First, it allows an ADD generation to do even more things at once. Carrying on a real conversation with someone, while it may certainly allow you to do a bunch of other things at the same time, requires you to concentrate on what is actually being said and pay attention, respond, formulate more or less cohesive thoughts. Not doing so may lend one in how water with the person on the other end, who can figure out pretty quickly if you are distracted.
Email takes resources too. Since it doesn't have a space limit, you could type out quite a lengthy document in trying to communicate whatever it is you are trying to say. Additionally, in general you need both hands to type. If you've ever tried to type out an email on a non-QWERTY phone, I am sure you can remember the pain and agony.
Text messaging, in my opinion, requires the least concentration, especially since your phone, when set to the right setting, helps you finish your thoughts by helpfully spelling the rest of the word you started keying in. As text messaging contests around the world have shown, people can get pretty good and tapping those little keys into words. And often, text messaging requires just a tiny part of your attention span. I can watch TV, read my email, if someone is at my house talk to them, all while typing you "what's up?" on my phone to my friends.
The second thing about text messaging that makes it so attractive is it makes you get to the point, and quickly. Small message sizes, screens, and the aforementioned not so easy of typing out words using numbers (most of us started texting in the pre-qwerty era), make you really figure out what you're trying to say. Instead of "Hey buddy, it's been a while, want to get together for a drink or dinner?", your friend may end up receiving a text that says "want to do smth 2nite?".
This is also one of the reasons why sites like Twitter are so popular. While texts may be self-imposed, Twitter purposefully imposes a limit on what you can say, so you have to figure out how to say it quickly. How many of us could condense our organizational missions in 140 characters or less and why people should care?
"Mission: Help poor people in developing countries."
"Mission: Ensure a livable earth for all its species."
Not so easy, huh?
So why would a generation that actually enjoys limiting itself to expression restrictions in the day-to-day (I am not saying here that this is a generation that does not want to express itself, we do!), want to slog through a 4 page donor fundraising letter, or a multi-paragraph email, to figure out what it is that you do, why you do it, who you help, and most importantly, why we should get on board with you?
Don't get me wrong, a well-written fundraising 4-pager or 2-pager can be a slam dunk in DM-retired folks (especially the older ones) seem to love spending time reading the stories we tell them, but they have time to do this. A generation constantly on the move, isn't going to stop just to read your lengthy fundraising letter or email. And this is also why, the campaigns that have been successful at getting Gen Y involved, have been ones that have had a message that was easily digestible and easy actionable.
"Lance Armstrong is famous. He has cancer. Buy his bracelet. Help cure cancer. Everyone is doing it."
"Tired of the same old? America needs to change. Obama is that change. And he needs you to help."
"Terrible tsunami kills loads of people in Asia. They need help. Donate cash now. Check out footage of disaster on YouTube."