When I got my first cell phone at age 16, I kept receiving text messages intended for the person who had the phone number before me: “Hey, girl, want 2 go 2 the mall @ 6?” No, I don’t want to go to the mall at six, and I’d appreciate it if you stopped asking.

After about a week and a half of getting messages for the prior owner of the number, I got so annoyed with them that I simply had the phone company turn off my phone’s text messaging capabilities. Almost six years later, I still don’t have texting. And while this occasionally causes some miscommunication when people say, “Oh, I texted you that I would be late,” I’m still glad that I don’t have texting. It seems like more trouble than it’s worth.

It’s not the idea of texting that bugs me. A quick, easy way to pass along a short message can be very useful. That’s why I love e-mail so much. The problem is that people abuse text messaging. It’s like they can’t pull their fingers from the keypad, even when they’re behind the wheel or interacting with someone in real life.

Texting while driving is now illegal in Michigan — making it one of 30 states with a similar ban. Shortly before the law was signed into effect, the Ann Arbor City Council considered making texting while driving illegal here in the city. The Federal Transportation Department is now encouraging automotive makers to fund public service announcements about the dangers of driving distracted, according to a Jan. 21 article from Reuters.

Texting while driving is extremely dangerous. In fact, doing almost anything while driving is a bad idea. Everybody knows they shouldn’t drive drunk. But drivers also shouldn’t eat or talk on the phone while they drive. Some people go as far as applying makeup while driving. Tasks like these — and texting — demand attention to fine motor control and decrease attention to the road. This increases the likelihood of an accident.

Everyone has heard how dangerous it is to drive distracted, and yet people still seem to do it. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve made a call while driving or scarfed down some fries from McDonald’s behind the wheel even though I know I shouldn’t. But texting is a whole new level of dangerous. No matter how much texting practice you have, you still have to devote too much attention to the phone and not enough to the road. Just put the phone away.

People should get their texting under control — and not just while they’re driving. Texting shouldn’t be used to hold a long, complicated discussion — especially when the person texting should be paying attention to their real-life surroundings.

Most often when I say that I don’t have texting, people tell me it’s great. They say that it’s so easy to just shoot someone an e-mail when you’re in a place that you can’t talk, like class.

But students shouldn’t text during class, as I have to tell the high school students at the school where I’m currently student teaching. No matter how sneaky you think you are as you text beneath the desk, it’s still noticeable and pretty rude to the instructor and your classmates. It shows that you’re not invested in the class. If you don’t want to listen to the teacher, just don’t go to class. And since texting can be used to cheat on tests and quizzes, it’s even more concerning that students have no problem whipping out their phone in the middle of a lecture hall.

The worst thing is when people text during dinner. I understand that everyone is busy, but when I’m sharing a meal with someone, I expect them to keep their attention on me and our other companions. Hopefully, they wouldn’t answer a phone call during dinner in the midst of a conversation. Why would they hold a full conversation with another person via text messaging when they’re supposed to be connecting with the person across the table? If you need to text, please leave the table and go into another room.

I love the idea of being connected all the time — of always being able to contact anyone. But there has to be a limit. There has to be a time when we put the phone away and focus on what’s going on in front of us. Sometimes that’s simply the safe thing to do (like during driving) and sometimes it’s the polite thing to do.

So don’t text me, OK? I won’t get it anyway.

Rachel Van Gilder was the Daily’s 2010 editorial page editor. She can be reached at rachelvg@umich.edu.

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