What’s Behind a Text?

Photo of a wallaby patiently posing while I sent one last text. Featherdale Zoo, Sydney, Australia

 So What’s Really behind a text?

Well, there are times when I say “Who the hell knows??”  It’s amazing in this digital age how many of us rely on texting as our primary mode of communication. Our tendency to multi task and cram so much into each day while conquering that “to do” list, leaves very little time for true, foundational relating.

So why don’t we make the time to talk to people?  Didn’t we do this before texting was available?  And now, it’s just so easy to satisfy an obligatory “keeping in touch” gesture by throwing the ball in their court.  I was late to the texting game years ago. I resisted hopping on the text mania bandwagon, slightly turned off by observing people’s reduced interest in verbally expressing themselves. That is, until the majority of my friends and contacts were just so hard to reach via phone.  I do see the value in text communication, especially during my busy working days or days I can’t mentally handle long, heavy conversation with people. And for brief business matters like scheduling meetings and quick Q&A, yes, it’s absolutely convenient!

Relating Via Text

Friendships and relationships built on texting do not work. The art of communication is lost. To me, this is not relating. People who solely communicate with us through their smart phones tend to hide behind their texts.  They don’t reveal their true feelings.  What about a new, developing relationship where you’re both in the “getting to know you” phase?   Perhaps they initially created a fantastical image of you so getting to know the real you with real human flaws via live conversation would knock you off that pedestal, ending the fantasy.  Or they enjoy the allure and mystery of flirting via text and prefer to stay in the safe, fun zone. Hence, the “getting to know you phase” is skillfully orchestrated with their thumbs.  This mainly applies to those romanticizers who don’t know how to deal well with realities of male-female interactions. I read this interesting article which stated men communicate to exchange information. Once that information is shared, there isn’t much to say. Women, on the other hand communicate to share, relate and connect. They use texting as a means to bond. So when a woman wonders why he doesn’t text a much or as enthusiastically as she does, she may feel he doesn’t want to bond and then gets upset.  Hence, another reason to stop relying on texting as a means to nurture a relationship.

Why text and not talk?

Are we lazy? It’s so much easier to type a quick note, abbreviate and hit send. Forget the expressions. No time for sentiments. He or she will get the point.

Are we impatient? Do we not have time to hear the endless rings and listen to a long, annoying voice mail announcement?  I try hard with this one, so I will rely on speaker phone and multi-task while waiting to leave a message. Or I take a stab at the keypad by hitting # or 1 to fast forward.

The Exclusive Texter:  I’m sorry but if someone tends to communicate with you solely via text and never actually dials your number, what are they saying about how much they value you?

The Voice Texter: I use voice texting often to relieve stress from my hands but I try to keep those short and sweet. However when I receive some long winded messages I occasionally have to politely respond with “Hey, I’ll read this later and get back to you!” Oh and I don’t forget the smiley emoticon so I don’t sound insensitive.  Yes, this can be a little too much work.

Texting can create S-T-R-E-S-S

Misinterpretations: Inflection, voice tone, expressions are muted or lost in texting. Sloppy, fast typing which leaves out pertinent punctuation for example can come across the wrong way, putting strain on relationships or causing tension.

Potential Disappointments: Sending a text can create deep emotional fear of facing rejection if a response doesn’t come back soon enough…. or at all! But we don’t know what exactly the recipient is doing at the time you send that text now, do we? Honestly, we ALL frequently glance at our phones throughout the days. So it’s a given your recipient saw your text. There are legitimate excuses for not replying to a text: they were napping, they were playing soccer, they were at a wedding, in a meeting or they simply unplugged for the sake of sanity.

There are times when the thought of returning a text exhausts me or it will distract me from my work (like writing). I just had to tell two of my understanding best friends to check in later since I’m disconnecting while I write this article…hmmmm, how ironic!

When you send a text, you lose some power. The fate of your conversation is now in your recipient’s hands. Will you get a response? When? The more time that lapses until a reply comes back, the more power your recipient has. Or what about the inner fear of being ignored as soon as you hit send? The mind-game tactics of text communication spurs unnecessary mental stress I can do without.

When does it End??

In texting, it really doesn’t. It’s so easy to just walk away and drift off without closing to the conversation by not replying. How convenient but what does that do to the other person?

So with texting we can always be in the middle of a conversation.  Now, if we were on the phone: real time response, communicate and closure; a beginning and end to a conversation. Done deal! (I like closure.) How did we get so used to being in constant communication with people every day?  This prevents us from taking time for ourselves especially if we don’t exercise self- discipline. It’s necessary for self -development, inner peace and mental clarity to spend time by yourself- something that’s so hard to do in today’s society despite the text obsession.  Doing some yoga poses or trying to meditate with your cell phone within reach for fear of missing a text, is NOT taking time to yourself!

I’m not anti-texting. I actually rely on it often.  I just feel it’s important not to lose the substance of your relationships (the ones that matter to you) by connecting live on a regular basis.  I’m a communicator, a “tell it to my face” type of person who appreciates people who are honest with themselves in order to be honest with me. With the exception of my overseas family and friends, with whom I Skype,  the valued  relationships in my life are ones that are built on a foundation of real, live connectivity sprinkled with some emails and texts throughout.

Without criticism,

Dr. Melanie

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