R U There?

Crisis Text Line has received five million texts, providing a unique corpus of data.

Excerpt from this article:

A person can contact Crisis Text Line without even looking at her phone. The number—741741—traces a simple, muscle-memory-friendly path down the left column of the keypad. Anyone who texts in receives an automatic response welcoming her to the service. Another provides a link to the organization’s privacy policy and explains that she can text “STOP” to end a conversation at any time. Meanwhile, the incoming message appears on the screen of Crisis Text Line’s proprietary computer system. The interface looks remarkably like a Facebook feed—pale background, blue banner at the top, pop-up messages in the lower right corner—a design that is intended to feel familiar and frictionless. The system, which receives an average of fifteen thousand texts a day, highlights messages containing words that might indicate imminent danger, such as “suicide,” “kill,” and “hopeless.”

Within five minutes, one of the counsellors on duty will write back… It is important to type carefully. In text messages sent to friends, typos can be an indication of intimacy. But a typo appearing on the cell-phone screen of a distressed teen-ager can undermine the sense of authority he’s looking for. “You have to train yourself not to hit that return button automatically,” a sixty-year-old counsellor from California told me. (Crisis Text Line counsellors are free to give a real or assumed first name to people who text in.) It is also regarded as a mistake to embrace teen-age patois too enthusiastically. One volunteer told me that she tries not to use acronyms. “I sometimes worry that it would come across as too ‘Oh, I got you!’ ” she said. Neutral language allows the texter to feel anonymous. These people have contacted a stranger for a reason. They aren’t looking for friendship.

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