Texting: The Price of Presence

Jan 5, 2022

“Dude, where r u?” – Initial inquiry asking someone’s location.

“Otw” – Response meaning “on the way”, indication of being en route to the destination.

“k” – Rebuttal of acknowledgement.

To claim this as an actual conversation is debatable. Ranging from mundane dialogue to more profound musings, texting has become a foremost method of correspondence. Initially, it was a “millennial” thing, but has since crossed age barriers. Even my sixty-something-year-old parents have proudly appropriated the texting syntax inclusive of “brb,” “lol” and “ttyl!”

For most, text messaging is a convenience utilized when it is not possible to have a voice discussion. It fulfills a need when a thought must be conveyed immediately and thus, allows for instant access to another person. It is an indispensable form of communication, but at what cost?

Like any other method of communication it, too, has its pitfalls. Texts are easily misunderstood. There are no inflections from a written word and often, you may find yourself reading into something that is not there (or ignoring something that is). As a Certified Life Coach, I can learn more about someone’s state of mind from how something is said (word usage and intonation) rather than what is actually said. Texts messages allow the user to craft their language. A Freudian slip is a thing of the past when one can backspace before committing to their words.

Per the example above, poor grammar abounds in text messages. There are too many shortcuts, allowing for the creation of bad habits, especially in younger generations. Additionally. phone shortcuts now pre-empt your typing and allow for you to auto-fill your words. This can often make for some rather hilarious auto-corrections, but more often than not, that is not the case.

However, the most dangerous consequence is using text messaging for all types of correspondence. When used to convey more than everyday information (what time will you be home? can you grab some eggs from the store?), a line begins to blur and a threshold crossed. More emotional interactions, be they good or bad, are reduced to words on a screen. A voice trembling from hurt will not be heard and eyes wet with tears will not be seen. This is when texting derails the human experience of true communication. These conversations became two-dimensional because they are plotted out, and words carefully chosen. While hesitation may abound when hovering over the “send” button, there is always the chance to edit. As a supplement to phone conversations, texting works, but guidelines need to be set up in order to maintain the humanity of such profound communication.

It is hard enough to maintain focus throughout the day with so many digital interferences vying for your attention. Texting makes it very easy to just space out. When engaged in actual conversation, minds wander to things on the to-do list, or perhaps simply thinking of what should be said next. One may hear what is said, but true listening and focus may be absent. Texting is “auto-pilot” communication and makes it easier to simply go through the motions without being totally mindful of what is being said and who is saying it.

Because of the instantaneous nature of texting, immediate gratification is the norm. Well, what happens when you don’t hear from someone you texted over an hour ago? Concern, worry, and even anger start to arise. Know your texter. Perhaps this is someone who takes hours to return a message. Perhaps they are a one-word texter. To some more-prolific texters, succinct messages can be off-putting and even dismissive.

In additional to knowing your texter, it is necessary to know your environment. There is a time and place for you to have your nose in your phone-family time is not that time. Place restrictions-even on yourself about your usage. Self-discipline within this context can bring great rewards. Like all social media, texting can become a time suck. If a message gets to a certain threshold – emotionally heavy, too long-winded, or an undercurrent is detected of which you are unsure, ask your texting companion if a phone call would be a viable alternative and tell them why. Let them know how much you value the sound of their voice and the quality of your relationship.


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