Texting has become more than a fad for some tweens and teens; it’s become a lifestyle. MTV’s new documentary “Thumbs” goes below the surface on the trend to try to crack into the secret world of texting.
The movie follows a group of six teens who entered LG’s U.S. National Texting Championship to try to earn the title of fastest texter in the United States, and a whopping $50,000 prize. Academy Award-winning director Bill Couturié was intrigued by the texting phenomenon and, after being approached by producer Michael Tollin, decided to create the first documentary showcasing the trend. MTV News got on the phone with Couturié to find out more about the film and what he learned about texting in the process.
“I didn’t know what I would find. And what I found is these kids are straight A students,” he said. He added that parenting plays a major part in the addictive element of texting, saying that “like any kids with anything, you’ve got to give them some rules.”
Couturié was first intrigued by the project when he noticed his own 14-year-old son would be sitting there texting away with “thumbs flying.” Many adults have a prejudice against kids texting too much, but Couturié found that for the most part that is unwarranted.
“It’s a generation gap thing,” he explained, stemming from the fact that grown ups believe that if two people aren’t talking face to face, they’re not communicating, while young kids believe the opposite. It’s that connection with their peers that Couturié believes is what draws teens to texting, and to other social networking outlets like Facebook.
“Thumbs” centers on six kids between the ages of 13 and 16 who made it to the final 32 competitors in 2010’s championship. Of the two guys and four girls he followed, the boys lost in the first round, leading Couturié to proclaim that girls are faster texters. Some of the teens competing could text up to 100 words per minute, which Couturié compared to secretaries being able to type 100 words per minute on their type-writers.
But Couturié didn’t find any sort of negative connection between teens who could text well and teens who exhibited bad behavior. The winner of 2010’s championship, a 13-year-old from Brooklyn named Brianna, actually had the strictest parents of the kids he followed. She wasn’t allowed to text at dinner or when doing her homework, never texted in class, and was totally fine with it.
“It’s a fun movie, it’s about kids having a good time, but there’s also a little bit of a moral in there that texting can be addictive, but if you just do a minimal amount of parenting, you can take care of it and everyone can have a good time,” he explained.
The documentary employed a special cell phone program that its subjects downloaded onto their phones that allowed Couturié to keep track of everything they were texting. The conversations occurring via their cell phones will appear in the movie for people to see.
“It’s kind of like this secret world of texting gets opened up and we get to see that, again, they’re just talking like kids. Nothing terrible,” Couturié said. “Sometimes they’re a little racy, sometimes they’re a little inappropriate, but by and large they’re just goofing around having a good time.”
“Thumbs” premieres on MTV at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT on Friday, August 19. Tell us your thoughts about the documentary in the comments section below or on Twitter!