When I heard about Do Something's "Pregnancy Text" campaign — "challenge your friends to take care of a phone baby for a day" — I was obviously intrigued. The projects allows users to experience having a baby for 24 hours via text message, as well as the chance to win a $2,000 scholarship if they text five friends and ask them to do the same.
(Okay, so I'm older than the target demographic. But I still signed up — in the name of journalism! — and texted five of my non-teenage friends, who instantly wrote back asking me why I invited them to raise a text baby. Sadly, I don't think any of them accepted the challenge.)
Here's how Do Something describes the campaign:
America has the highest teen pregnancy rate of any industrialized nation. If you're a girl you may already know this since most campaigns about the issue targets females. We think guys should learn a bit about this too, don't you?
Sign up your guy friends for a day of funny text messages to show them how their lives would be different if they were a teen parent.
After texting my friends, I got a response telling me to text "Diaper" to start my own challenge. Next, I received this message: "Get some sleep, your phone baby will let you know tomorrow morning when it needs you. She will text you throughout the day."
I completely forgot that I had a phone baby — who I have since named "Kyndal," since it was one of the least popular girl's names in 2011 and I want my phone baby to be ~*~unique~*~ — until I looked at my phone at around 10:30 am the next day. My baby's first "words" were:
Kyndal (9:30): "OMG, you're up too?!? I thought I was the only one who likes to wake up at 630AM! [I guess my baby lives on the west coast?] Well since we're both awake now - let's eat! Bring baby breakfast in bed."
Kyndal (10:00): "BUURRRPPP. Oops, sorry about the mess on your shirt. It didn't look good on you anyway."
Kyndal (10:30): "Me? I'm just making the cutest face you've ever seen right now. Grrggle, grrrrggle."
Then, two hours of silence. I wasn't sure how to respond — it seemed like Kyndal had pretty much taken care of herself — but I finally wrote back around noon:
Me (12:00): "Can I respond to you? I don't get how this works."
Me (12:10): "I'm worried you're dead."
Aha! A text! I had not killed my phone baby!
Kyndal (12:10): "BbbEEEEllch...hiccup...hehehe. You were saying something?"
Kyndal (12:15): "That's not very comforting to hear. Give me constant attention and I won't die. Bottle please, NOW."
"Here's your bottle." I wrote back. That seemed to do the trick. Raising a baby is easier than raising a Tamagotchi, you guys!
About twenty minutes later, Kyndal was back:
"What's that smell? Oh, it's me. We've got a situation downtown. I need to be changed ASAP. Stop what you're doing, answer the call of doodie and freshen up."
"Ok here you go," I wrote back.
"Shhhh! No talking! Baby is sleeping," Kyndal said.
I got a little annoyed at this point.
"I mean I was just trying to help," I wrote.
Kyndal apparently did not like my snark, because she gave me the silent treatment for the next hour and a half. So I texted her to ask if she was still sleeping. Nothing! Finally, she wrote:
Kyndal (4:00): "BAH. BAHH. BAHHH. I don't know how to tell you what I need, so I'm just going to keep screaming until you figure it out. WAHHHHHH. Your move, Sherlock."
I didn't respond. I think I was busy working and didn't notice her text.
Kyndal (6:00): "FLARP. Was that a poop or a fart? Only one way to find out!"
"It was just a fart," I wrote back.
Kyndal was not amused.
"Aw thanks, you're such a good text parent," she wrote back right away. "I could just pinch your cheeks. (note my sarcasm)"
"I don't think babies know how to use sarcasm?" I wrote. "I don't even know your name! [I had not yet named her Kyndal.] What's your name? A/S/L?"
Kyndal took too long to respond, so I left work and went to a party, which meant I was too busy drinking to notice her texts asking me to come back and feed her and play with her, which made me feel a little guilty. It seemed to work out okay, though, because later she said:
"You're a peekaboo master! Now I'm pretty sleepy, can you put me to bed? Before you do, I need another diaper change. Those diapers must be getting expensive huh?"
"You're right," I wrote, perhaps slightly drunk thanks to the party's open bar. "I am probably not ready to have a child."
Two hours later, I got this text:
"It's been a long day, but here is one final challenge: Which industrialized nation has the highest teen pregnancy rate? text USA, BRITAIN, or FRANCE."
I knew the answer, because I work for Jezebel, but given that Do Something also posted that statistic on its website, I feel like the question could have been tougher. "USA," I said.
"Though rates are the lowest they have ever been, the US still has the highest teen pregnancy rate among industrialized nations," Kyndal (who apparently aged a few decades by nightfall) wrote back. "Thanks for taking the challenge!"
I'm not sure how successful Do Something's campaign will be, since Kyndal wasn't all that annoying, except when she used too many wisecracking acronyms. Teens might be more open to social media-based programs than to carrying around baby dolls or eggs, and I like the idea of teen girls encouraging their guy friends to see what it's like to raise a baby, but maybe the program should text teenagers late at night on the weekends to remind them to use condoms instead.
Image via Do Something.