The Theory Behind Notes

In George Orwell’s 1984, Winston encounters a suspicious girl in a hallway who trips and falls. When Winston runs to help her up, she slips a note into his hand. In this totalitarian society they live in, it is nearly impossible to deliver any sort of message to another person, for fear of being caught and incinerated.

Everybody has passed notes at some point in their lives. In elementary school, we passed notes with our friends so we could talk without getting in trouble with the teachers. We would rip out a sheet of paper from our notebooks, and write messages on it. When the teacher looked away, the note was slipped to your friend.


The danger was, of course being caught. I will never forget the horrible moment in fifth grade when I passed a note to my friend, and as I reached out to give it to her, my teacher’s hand came down on mine, stopping me from passing the note. This resulted in, not only my hand stopping, but my heart as well, as I was completely struck with fear.

To be honest, I don’t remember if I ever passed notes in that class again. But it certainly didn’t stop me from participating in this activity in my future. The future of note passing became interesting. My friends would get a hold of play spy gear, where you could wear this ridiculous looking head band that had a giant bar over one eye. The headbands came with keyboards, and you could write messages of up to about 15 characters and send them to your friend. Your friend would receive the message in the bar across their eyes.


Granted, we couldn’t use this method in school, because if you take a look at the picture to the right, you’ll notice that a teacher might notice their students wearing these. However, at sleepovers, when we would want to talk about boys and were afraid of parents hearing us, or leaving a paper trail, these worked perfectly.

As technology improved, and we got older, however, we switched to a whole new means of passing notes.


Almost all high schoolers text in class. There is no way to prevent everyone from this. It’s easy, it’s convenient, and it’s pretty safe. For the most part, teachers don’t even notice. Another, even more recent development is SnapChat, which is even more fun because you get to send pictures along with your message.

I’m not an avid class texter, but I will confess to the occasional message. I have, however seen bags on desks, creating the “great wall of texting,” where girls try to hide their phones.

So, what is it, exactly that constitutes “passing a note”? Is it the message being delivered, or is it the physical passing of a piece of paper. Technology and time would indicate that passing a note refers to the actual message being received. It’s a little sad, though, that the days of slipping notes to your neighbor are over.


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