I have a love/hate relationship with texting. It’s great for quick conversations and having fun with friends with friendly banter. I remember the first days of texting with a flip phone, hunting and pecking for each tiny letter to appear on the screen. It was like magic to be able to send messages over the airways to a device directly in someone’s hand. It could hardly be ignored like an email buried in a bunch of spam on a computer. Voila! Instant access. Instant communication. Instanct contact.
I was married to my second husband when texting started. He was dead set against it. He actually didn’t want me to call him, either. The man hated me, and when he got away from me he did NOT want to hear from me. I started texting a little with some friends, but we had Blackberries, and it just wasn’t all that easy. Right after we separated, I got a text message from him saying “hello”. Since I knew he didn’t want to give me the time of day, I knew in an instant that he was learning to text with whatever new woman he had just decided to pursue. He accidentally texted his ex or maybe it was on purpose. At any rate, he confirmed he did not want to talk to me.
Ashok ate my Blackberry one day. Since my contract wasn’t up, I had to pay full price for anything I got and that was definitely outside my budget. I bought a used iPhone off a geek at work, and I began my love affair with real-world texting. The skies opened up on the internet and communication. I could breathe across the universe. I could instantaneously hear from friends, communicate when I was out shopping and generally be in touch all the time. For an extrovert this was amazing…. until it wasn’t.
I have lost long-time friends over a texting conversation gone wrong. Strangers have sent me unsolicited videos of masturbation. I’ve shared pictures, bitmojis, and all kinds of laughter with the click of a button. The ability to text has saved me from getting lost. It has also gotten me into relationships I should have never started, and has just as easily gotten me out. Things said to me in text have hurt me so bad I will never be able to forget them even though the sender probably doesn’t even remember typing it. I love the convenience and simplicity of text, but I hate what it has done to communication.
My friend Jill has a three text rule. If something takes more than three texts, it’s time to call. I have a hard and fast rule that I don’t text in anger. I give it a day to cool off, or I only respond with flattery or apologies. Given the situation, I may pick up the phone and call. I have other friends who don’t text at all unless it’s an emergency or the only way to get in touch. I always try to respond to texts immediately even if I say “can’t text now” because I know people with abandonment issues who really struggle with slow responses from text. And I abide by my friends’ rules with text because I know they have them for a reason.
I try to remember there is another person on the other end of the phone and put their texts in the context of who I know them to be. So I don’t text too much when I’m trying to get to know someone. I tend to see everyone through the lens of my past experience if I don’t have anything else to counteract that. And forget sarcasm and nuance. Those things do not work over text. I’m not sure why some people have not figured that out yet. I don’t even like sarcasm about me face-to-face. Sarcastic insults coming at me over the airwaves from a disembodied stranger is the surest way to light my fire – and not in a steamy way.
The thing that bothers me the most about text is the barrier it puts between us. I have friends that only text with me. It’s sort of what we do. But I have the sensation of being held at arms length. I feel like I’m screaming through a hole, and they can’t see me. And that’s actually true. Some of my friends think texting is the same as talking on the phone, but it’s not to me. I love to hear a person’s voice and be able to respond in real time, knowing that we have each other’s full attention. Text is spontaneous but not like the spoken word. And I can hear emotion and inflection in a voice that I can’t decipher over text. I even like video calls better. They have opened up a world of communication that almost completely resembles being there.
What are your rules around texting? Do you see a downside? Have you experienced real-life issues due to the ease and use of text?