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Texting and Relationships: How to Embrace Technology With Healthy Balance

I'm an eclectic writer on travel, fitness, life hacks, and contentious topics. I look for ways to learn, grow, and understand others.


Texting Shouldn't Be the Only Way We Communicate

While texting and messaging have their place, they shouldn’t be “every place” or “every time” and isn't the best way to navigate our relationships.

Not only does texting lack tone, but it also lacks body language and eye contact too. Texting can make the most genuine of statements perceived as insincere. I recently read only 7% of what we would convey in person, is conveyed during a text. That said, I wouldn't run a marathon with only 7% of my available effort, so I certainly don't want to communicate at 7% effort either.

“10% of conflict is due to a difference in opinion, but 90% is due to the wrong tone of voice".

— Unknown

Texting Has Replaced Face-to-Face Communication

Texting makes sharing negative feelings easier since you don’t have to “face” the person. Let's say you wish to apologize to someone, so you do it in a text message. What's missing here? For starters, an apology implies, "I know I’ve hurt you." If in-person, there is eye contact, and you can hear the sincere tone in the voice. This step is completely missed in a text dialogue and can come across cowardly and insincere. The appeal of texting is less daunting for the sender and screams avoidance. It’s a cop-out and doesn't teach us how to handle direct conflict and take ownership of our actions.

My concern is we have more unacknowledged dialogue than acknowledged. There's a sense of entitlement and even stoicism. I admit I'm terrible when people seemingly don't want to converse with me or show passive aggression by not responding. I make things worse by continuing to send more messages, which feeds the vicious cycle of feeling unimportant and devalued.


When People Don't Respond To Texts

How about the overwhelming fear of "the worst" when your child doesn’t respond? What about the unanswered texts? The ignored dialogue that leaves you wondering: “Did they see/receive it”? “Did something terrible happen to them"? “Are they upset with me"? Those are unsettling feelings that can break our day--and in most cases, cause ongoing anxiety.

Whether we admit it or not, there's a crushing feeling something is amiss. Whether in a personal or professional setting, it causes distress and confusion. We resend our texts again, just in case they didn't get then--but deep down, we know they did, and we want that visceral, gut-wrenching feeling of anxiety and fear to go away.

We No Longer Speak to One Another

If we resort to the phone, it's with a known expectation we'll be talking to voicemail because no one answers anymore. Some use a text to “return the call,” and you never get to have a phone conversation. It wasn't that long ago when my girlfriends and I didn’t think twice about calling each other five times in a day to discuss our kids, arrange carpools and team meals, swap recipes, or chat for no good reason. Those days are long gone.

Texting and messaging is the easy way out of inconveniencing ourselves and others from having to deal with people, because we don’t want to, or don’t have to. Generally, I don’t want to talk either, and if I do, I'm a “hands-free” or Bluetooth kind of gal. I prefer to chat while going about my cleaning, gardening, running, or whatever it is; I need to be doing to complete my day.

My parents were always upset because I was "out of breath" on my cordless or cell phone whenever they'd call. I was a busy, multi-tasking, working mother of four and always on the go. They felt I was rude because I wasn't "sitting still' to talk to them and wasn't giving my undivided attention--and I wasn't. That was a no-win situation that caused more family distress than it needed to. But in my mind, it was better than not answering the phone at all (it was called "look at the caller-ID back then) and ignoring them until I had time to call back. It was hard finding a balance with that generation set in their non-technological ways. Now, the shoe is on the other foot, and I'm feeling ignored and unimportant with texting, the same way they felt.

There needs to be a balance. We shouldn't stray so far away from vocal communication we jeopardize our relationships. Everyone's "busy." (I hate that word and how loosely folks use it when making excuses for our shortcomings and lack of communication). We always find time for what or who is important.


Technology Can Be Good

I love technology, and it’s continuing evolution, but not when it affects relationships or causes emotional distress. How can we find a proper balance that keeps everyone's mind at ease and eliminates worry, fear, and confusion? We acknowledge we are busier now than ever before. Our children are involved in more activities than when we were kids, our jobs are more demanding, and we travel and are on the go more than ever. That’s the reality.

That said, people use texting as a way to arrange meet-ups, tell their loved ones, "good morning, goodnight, or that they love them." One fond memory I have of texting was when my daughter was away at college. She'd text "goodnight, drive safe, and I love you" when I was at work. (I'm an evening/night shift nurse) It felt comforting knowing she was thinking of me, and I was more alert and conscious of my 45-minute drive home at midnight. I felt loved and special.

To practice what I peach, I answer every text and email as promptly as I can, even if I can't give a detailed or complete response at that second. I acknowledge the sender and then respond adequately when the time is right. I have my "read-receipts" (iPhone user) turned on for those closest to me so they at know I've received and read their message. I don’t want to make anyone feel unimportant. After all, if we're communicating, in some way, you're someone important in my life, and I want you to know this. It’s that simple and easy fix to preserve our humanity and relationships if we're going to embrace this technology as our primary mode of communication.

Texting Vs. Talking

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Debra Roberts


Erica on April 17, 2020:

I was walking through a park with my husband recently, and we were both playing Pokemon Go on our phones. An older gentleman walked by us and asked if we were texting each other. This implied that texting versus actually talking is a common thing. My first thought was, if I ever get to that point, somebody just kill me. Because texts should not replace conventional conversations, especially if we are in the same place as the person we are talking to.

Nina N on March 28, 2019:

Your points are so true! My husband and I acknowledge this so we always make it a point to spend time together without the presence of our phone. During meal time, we don't bring our phones at the table so we can talk while eating.

In The Pastel Bag on March 28, 2019:

How true! Texting is becoming the main mode of communication, with the screen replacing the face and its expressions, creating distance. Your article helps us to reflect on what we wish to achieve through communication.

clio on March 28, 2019:

I guess I'm somewhere in between the 2 profiles you describe. With friends, we often use voice messages - which is a way to still talk to the person, but not at the same time. The reason behind this is simply time.. I like to schedule the time I can be with people - then preferring the real life meeting; and the time where I work. Working from home, it's easy for other people to think that I'm available - more than if I were in the office - but if I stay 30 minutes on the phone, than I'm behind in my work - which is why I tend to avoid phone calls whenever possible!

Erica (The Prepping Wife) on March 27, 2019:

I hate talking to people on the phone instead of texting when it’s something that needs to be done quickly. Like if I’m saying, I’m on my way. I’m not calling for that. It just takes too long and opens up the line for wasted time when I’m already going to see them. But other times I love hearing someone’s voice on the other end of the phone when I can’t see them. It’s a balance, which can be difficult to find at times.

Blair villanueva on March 27, 2019:

Texting is amaxing for quickly delivering the messages, but I alao agree that doing this oftenly affects relationship. Me and my boyfriend agreed not to text oftenly, so that we have many things to discuss when we are home.

Elizabeth Tired Mom supermom on March 27, 2019:

Thank you for sharing/ I text all the time, I hate picking up a phone, it gives me anxiety.

sharon wu on March 27, 2019:

thanks for sharing these insights. you are so right that texting shouldn't be our primary means of communication but with how things have evolved over the years, texting can be the more convenient method. thanks for the reminder to connect with people face to face more often, or even on the phone by voice.

Lyosha on March 27, 2019:

I agree, texting should not replace the old fashioned conversations. It is convenient but lacks warmth. On the bright side we do feel closer now because of texting

Elease Colcord on March 27, 2019:

With each generation, I'm afraid it's getting worse, but I do think there's hope! I find when my teenagers have a face to face option they take it. We just have to keep creating options!

Joyce on March 27, 2019:

I agree with you but I also think that it has made it easier for those who travel to be able to transfer their feelings through written words miles away.

Candace on March 27, 2019:

I feel like such an old soul because I’m one is the few people in my generation who prefers real conversations over text messaging. I feel like as a society we are in a dangerous place when it comes to communication.

Subhashish Roy on March 27, 2019:

You are so very right. Sometimes texting may be required but most times it is much easier to talk.

Ashley on March 27, 2019:

I am also very guilty of just texting and rarely ever speaking on the phone! For me, it's not necessarily that I don't want to, but it's that both parties involved just naturally go to text instead of phone/talk. Something else I noticed years ago is when people DO meet up but they're on their phones! When I was younger, I was guilty of it as well but have since realised how incredibly rude it is.

Megan McC on March 26, 2019:

I'm totally guilty of switching to texts instead of talking to the person. Especially when I want to avoid certain topics.

Melody on March 26, 2019:

I totally agree that texting an be very detrimental. I love it for the ability to communicate when I think of things even if it won't be a convenient time for others. But I know that they can get back to me when it's good for them. There are many times, though, when I'm texting back and forth and I stop and call the person. Talking is way more immediate and accurate.

Jennifer McCormick on March 26, 2019:

You hit the nail on the head with your statement 'There needs to be a balance'! For me, the balance is a text for quick, direct yes/no replies or for scheduling plans and save the real conversations for in person or over the phone.

Lauren Forsythe on March 26, 2019:

I agree with all the problems you stated, but I generally find texting easier than talking on the phone in many cases. This is especially because I can text anyone with an iphone from my computer, and I can type as fast if not faster than I can talk. However, I do still talk on the phone to catch up with people that I know. The biggest issue that I have is the time difference between me and most of the people I want to talk to. Texting may leave something to be desired, but it is convenient when you can respond on your own time.

Luna S on March 26, 2019:

I completely agree, it is crazy the things people choose to text VS calling or telling the person face to face. I've heard of people breaking up over text, letting people know someone passed away over text, etc. I know I personally would want to know those kind of things over a phone call or face to face instead.

Scott DeNicola and Vinne Monaco from New York on March 26, 2019:

This hits home because as much as I love technology I HATE IT! I feel sorry for the next generation as they have very little in the way of communication skills. My kids get freaked out if a friend doesn't respond to their text to make plans. I tell them to pick up the phone and just call them and they look at me like I'm crazy. To make it worse my kids can't even add the extra keystroke to type OK. It's just K. I'm fearful of the time they need to go on a job interview and converse. You nailed it on the head here!

Debra Roberts (author) from Ohio on September 16, 2018:

Prashanth, thank you and I agree completely! I feel the lack of personal communication has affected the personal relationship with my children especially. All kids want to do is text and avoid. My oldest does seem to prefer phone dialog the most and I do feel he and I are closer because of it. I have one adult child who will ignore my texts for days and it's hurtful, knowing that phone is on their person all the time. I feel I could expand so much more on this topic!

Prashanth Lakshmana from BENGALURU, INDIA on September 16, 2018:

A great article. I have always been a 'meet-up and talk' kind of a person. I, for one, solemnly feel that a personal conversation leads to a more meaningful relationship with a person rather than any kind of communication over technology. This article has elaborated on most of the things I have always thought in this regard.

Debra Roberts (author) from Ohio on September 15, 2018:

@dashingscorpio that IS another frustration. I hate repeating myself. Basically, they were using the VM as caller i.d. We have bred an entire society of people fearful of possible confrontation too. Thank you for your awesome input!

dashingscorpio from Chicago on September 15, 2018:

I've noticed many people these days prefer to text over talking on the phone. There are also those who will return your call but won't take the time to listen to a voicemail you left them before calling you back.

"Did you listen to my voicemail?" No, I just noticed you called.

Now you have to repeat everything you already said.

In many instances I believe people text those they don't want to talk to. It also allows them to express themselves without interruption. In essence it's a form of controlling a discussion.

As you noted one cannot always convey tone or humor in text.

Young people in particular have forgotten phones were originally designed for {verbal communication}. I can't tell you how many relationship questions I've come across where someone is complaining about a person not responding to a text in a timely manner or hasn't replied to a text they sent a few days ago.

It's as if it never crossed their mind to actually CALL the person! :)

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