'Plz Help Me Thx' Pleas Local Textaholic
Known by some as "the silent [time] killer", text messaging is fast becoming a real problem in the U.S., according to recent data. Although the degrees of the disease differ between individuals, full-fledged textaholism can develop quickly and without warning.
One man, area resident Paul Cardiff, knows this all too well.
During a recent intervention, Cardiff tearfully admitted to friends and family that he is, in fact, a textaholic, and has agreed to enter into a rehabilitation program, on the condition that he can first text the facility and let them know that he's coming.
Cardiff, who typically sends at least 50 to 100 texts every morning before going to work and can't fall asleep without the comfort of seeing at least 20 new messages in his inbox, was confronted by friends and family in a wrenching, but hopeful, encounter.
"I'm ready to put the past behind me," Cardiff said to tearful applause from his family and friends, fiddling around in his pocket, "and start using the conventional telephone to make my weekend plans like a decent member of society."
As he spoke, Cardiff's father got a text message from him, which read "OMG this is so embarrassing :("
Don Foster, a friend of Cardiff's who helped set the intervention, talked about the harrowing events that lead up to the moment when he and others knew that something had to be done before Cardiff's life spiraled out of control.
"All the classic signs were there," said Foster. "He would try to tell us that he drove better while texting, that he could control it, all that. It only got worse, to the point that his roommate [Eric Emmerson] came to see me after finding that the only way that he could get through to him was to text him, even though they live in adjacent rooms. Just scary."
Attempting to quit cold turkey, Cardiff often found himself curled up in the corner of the room with an old land-line phone, or sometimes even a calculator, madly hitting the buttons to replicate the sensation of texting.
Now, Cardiff will enter a 12-step program wherein he can use a cellular phone that can't send or receive texts, but will be allowed to instant message ("IM", in street parlance) twice a day. Once he is weaned off of instant messaging, then the real battle starts; Cardiff will have to communicate with the outside world by calling a phone number and speaking to the person on the other end to facilitate social interaction.
"He will likely just make clicking noises at first, as he simulates the sound of cell phone buttons being depressed," said Dr. Potstan of Rush Medical Center, where Cardiff will be treated. "It will take him some time to re-learn basic phrases such as 'Hello, who is there?' and 'I would like to meet up with you, chum.'"
Dr. Potstan, who specializes in addictions such as Blackberry Thumb, internet porn, and Xboxitis, says that Cardiff's problem is not unique, but is common amongst many young men and women who are at first pressured by peers to start texting, or begin doing it recreationally.
"It usually begins fairly innocuously with a 'running 5 mins late' here and a 'see u soon!' there, but before you know it, the people you love can only reach you through acronyms and one-sentence messages," he explained. "Imagine the shock of a spouse or a loved receiving at two in the morning a message that reads 'let me in im outside i frgot my keys'. Messages like these can cause great, lasting disturbance to those around the abuser."
Dr. Potstan encourages everyone to remember that behind every text-addicted soul, there was once a child that used to use the doorbell when wanting to be let in, or who would ask girls out on dates over the phone, and that that child isn't necessarily lost forever.
"I believe that Mr. Cardiff can make a full recovery, and hopefully avoid the recidivism that we see so often when a friend just asks them to hold their phone for them while they put on their coat," he said. "It only takes one text before you're back off the wagon, reduced to staring at your phone during a movie, sending someone a text that says 'yo im @ the movies'."
It's clear that Cardiff has a long, painful road ahead of him. As The Enduring Vision went to press, we received word that he broke out of the rehab program, stole his mother-in-law's cell phone and, not knowing any phone numbers of friends and relatives to text, sent a message to 911 that read, "wtf, where u at?"