Most of us have forgotten the time when we shortened everything that wasn’t a full stop and tried our very best to add as much context into a single message because each SMS came with its own bill.
It was the time of Nokia phones with screens as small as a five rupee coin and keys so tiny that typos were a nightmare. While they could fit very well into even the smallest of pockets, they did little other than send and receive SMS messages (which had a letter limit). The max you could do was play a game of snake while waiting for class to end.
Although texting was invented in the early 1990s, it really started to take off in the 2000s, with people clacking away on Nokia’s multi-tap keypads. For a generation switching from long, droning calls made on landlines, the word cap on SMS messaging was very new. People weren’t used to making conversation without mentioning the context or broaching a topic without making the initial pleasantries.
But there was a solution to this as well. Texts themselves remained lengthy, but to beat the word limit, each word was shortened to the max, making reading a text an ordeal in-itself.
By now, it had been a few years since Steve Jobs had launched the iPhone. But people were only talking about one thing: the Blackberry. And with that came BBM. Blackberry changed how millennials texted and talked: the phones featured a full keyboard and with BBM there was no word limit, the options for connectivity were limitless.
People were judged for not capitalising what needed to be capitalised and capitalising what shouldn’t have been.
While BBM was a community exclusive to Blackberry users, Whatsapp was also on the rise. And with Apple’s constant innovation, it soon took over Blackberry; the need to talk to people who weren’t using the Blackberry increased. Texting became inclusive, device types became irrelevant.
From sending stickers, emojis, locations, to numerous pictures and videos, the ease of connectivity that came with Whatsapp allowed millennials to find new ways to express themselves and connect.
There is one other thing that happened with Whatsapp’s popularity: texting once again became casual.
In 2020s, it’s safe to say that texting will be a personal experience with a focus on prioritising how individuals want to vocalise their thoughts.
With an increasing wave of self awareness spreading amongst the youth, texting will be another domain that they claim for themselves, a place which will be free from judgement and conformity.
Read more from ProperGaanda: What does the banning of ‘Zindagi Tamasha’ say about freedom of expression in Pakistan?