Do Youths Still Pass Notes In Class?

Just doodling in the margins here.

Photo by Skyla Design on Unsplash

A lot of my writing requires thinking back to the way things were. When I was but a child, before the internet, before iEverything, when my fingers still knew how to hold a pen and my phone tethered me to an eight-foot radius.

It can be shocking to come across a memory and realize that the way it is in my mind can no longer exist for kids and teenagers today. It’s odd, you’d think I’d feel sad for myself for a lack of access to all that teens today can interact with, but instead I feel sad for “the kids these days,” because they’ll never know what life was like for us. I don’t wish I had an iPhone as a teen, I was quite content with my pager, thanks.

An interesting thought recently appeared: Do kids still pass notes in class? Do they even need to? What with every child being issued a lunch box and an iPhone on the same day, they can now just communicate like spies conducting intricate prisoner exchange all without a teacher ever sensing mischief.

Notes were wonderful. Talking about everything and nothing at the same time, making me feel important and connected to my friends. Little folded treasures documenting the maelstrom of teenage life in wide rule with three hole punch. They spoke when we couldn’t, and helped up carve out our own little personalities in penmanship and artwork and gossip.

It can’t possibly be more difficult to send a sly text message than it was to write on a physical piece of paper, fold it, and pass the damned thing. Just use the magical, invisible highways of the internets, kiddies! I’m aghast at the unfairness. The youth of today can be little assholes without ever taking the risk of holding out their arms across an aisle — do they understand what we went through?!

I loved notes. I was ar-teest about it. No one could swoop together a top righthand margin four-petal flower the way I could. And magic eye trick cubes? Forgetaboutit. There was also a phase where all I drew were right eyes with cat eye makeup, I don’t know what that was about.

Notes were a source of pride and tween collateral. A chance to prove your social prowess and rule-breaking bravery. Documenting and capsuling youthful moments that seemed vitally important at the time but are now, somewhat ironically, as awkwardly painful as nails on a chalkboard. Who liked who, who was ousted from popularity, and who was simply bored in AP Math.

What I wouldn’t give to have a shoebox full of my old notes. What an anthology they’d make! I took paper and №2 lead for granted, I can promise you that much. I never knew how badly I’d long for these trinkets of youth. And these teen texters, what will they look back on with nostalgic superiority?

“Pfft! The kids these days can simply send messages with their minds and transmit them to the contact lens-embedded screens that were implanted at birth! In the good ‘ol days when I was a kid, we texted. We had to charge our phones. The insolence.”

I hope techwave teens pass notes. Real ones. I hope they have some grasp of the value held within the confines of formed letters and sentences on paper. I hope they know how much more meaningful physically writing something down is as opposed to tapping it out with one’s thumbs.

Alas, as I am a lowly grown-up, far removed from the intricate solar systems of teenage society. All I can do is wonder about their lives, and retain immense gratitude for my own. And you might try to tell me that things are better now, a paperless ecosystem of clandestine text communications certainly saving the trees and whatnot. But I’ll never stop believing in the romance of notes, in the necessity of the tiny written artifacts of our formative years. I’ll never stop seeing magic in pen and paper. I will never, ever fold.

NPR once called me a humor essayist, let’s go with that. Host of A Single Serving Podcast. shanisilver[at]gmail

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