Texting Across Generations

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Sitting around the dinner table with four generations of family members reminded me how important it is for individuals to communicate about their preferred method of communication. It all started when my fiancé told me my mother had texted him to remember to bring an important document to her.

"My mother knows how to text?" I responded, as did the other "kids" at the table.

The answer obviously was yes, she just didn't do it often.

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"I don't understand why you people text each other," my Boomer-aged stepfather declared. "Just pick up the phone."

"If someone leaves me a voicemail, I don't even check it. I hate voicemail," my 18-year-old cousin declared.

"Is that why you never call me back?" my uncle asked.

I tried to explain that sometimes it's faster to send a quick FYI instead of either interrupting someone's conversation or playing phone tag for hours, even days.

It's not just Gen X and Gen Y who are jumping on the text messaging bandwagon, however.

When executives from Petz Enterprises came to New York to talk about TextLink, a text messaging service integrated into its CrossLink tax software product that lets preparers deliver text messages to their clients' cell phones, I thought it was cool. But my initial response was, "Do older accountants know how to text?"

The three men in the room including my editor, who were clearly all my seniors, were not so amused with my inadvertent ageist comment.

They acknowledged that while many Boomers may not necessarily subscribe to text messaging plans, they have become familiar with the technology through their children or younger co-workers.

They may balk at spending up to 50 cents a message, but it's a lot cheaper than the billable-or nonbillable-time spent on the phone.

One Petz customer even spent last tax season texting people from her own cell phone and said TextLink will save her 80 percent more time.

Texting has its flaws, however. Particularly when the intended recipients either don't subscribe to the service or don't understand the acronyms used to make messages shorter (LOL is not even the tip of the iceberg.)

Once when I was arranging to meet an executive for an interview, he sent me an email confirming the time: 2 p.m. LMK? I pondered the letters for several minutes. I often deal with people in other time zones, but I didn't recognize that one. Finally, I wrote him back, admitting my lack of knowledge.

"Sorry," he wrote. "I've been texting my daughter. It means Let Me Know."

Sometimes the problem can be as simple as poor eyesight. My aunt says she can't read the letters on her phone, so she just types "Call Me" when my cousin attempts to contact her.

On an even more basic level, my stepfather and uncles give my octogenarian grandparents an annual subscription to cell phone service as a gift every year.

"Now will you give us a call?" my stepfather joked.

"Sure," my grandfather replied. "If only I could figure out how to work the thing."

Accounting Tomorrow is a monthly column in Accounting Technology magazine that runs in conjunction with a SourceMedia Web site dedicated to stories addressing intergenerational issues, www.accountingtomorrow.com.

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