The Good, Bad, and Ugly Ways Texting Affects Relationships
Texting Should Not Be the Only Way We Communicate
While texting and messaging both have their place, they shouldn’t be “every place” or “every time” and definitely not the only way to navigate our relationships.
“10% of conflict is due to difference in opinion, but 90% is due to wrong tone of voice". So, not only does texting lack tone, but it also lacks body language and eye contact. Texting can make the most genuine of statements to be perceived as insincere. I recently read that "only 7% of what we would normally convey in person, is actually conveyed during a text". That said, I would not run a marathon with only 7% of my available effort, so I certainly do not want to communicate in such a way.
Texting Has Replaced Face-to-Face Communication
Texting makes sharing negative feelings easier since you don’t have to actually “face” the person. Let's say you wish to apologize to someone, so you do it in a text message. What is missed here? For starters, an apology implies "I know I’ve hurt you". If in person, I can make eye contact and you can hear the sincere tone in my voice. This step is completely missed in a text dialogue and can come across as a cowardly, insincere approach. The appeal of texting is less uncomfortable for the sender and allows for avoidance. It’s a cop-out and does not teach us how to handle direct conflict and take ownership of our actions.
This is my fear for current and future generations. There is more unacknowledged dialogue than there is acknowledged, a sense of entitlement, and even stoicism. I admit I am terrible when people seemingly do not want to converse with me or are showing some form of passive aggression by not responding. I tend to make things worse by continuing to send more messages, which starts the vicious cycle of annoyance, anger, resentment, and feelings of being unimportant.
When People Do Not Respond To Texts
How about that overwhelming fear of 'the worst" when your child doesn’t respond when you check in with them. What about just the basic 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 about something"? Those are all unsettling feelings that can go so far as to make or break our entire day if we let it. Whether we want to admit it or not, deep down there is that crushing feeling that something is amiss. Whether in a personal or professional setting, it causes distress and confusion. I'm that person that resends things a few times, hoping it’s because it was missed and not ignored. I just want resolution and to end that terrible gut feeling.
We No Longer Speak to One Another
If we go back to using the phone; it is with a clear expectation we will likely be talking to voicemail as it seems no one wants to answer the phone anymore. There are also those who will use a text to “return the call” and you never get to actually have a phone conversation. It really wasn't all that long ago when my girlfriends and I didn’t think twice about calling each other five times in one day to discuss our kids, arrange carpools and team meals, swap recipes, or just shoot the breeze 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. Most of the time, I don’t want to talk either, and if I do, I'm a “hands-free” or Bluetooth kind of gal and prefer to chat while going about my cleaning, gardening, running, or whatever it is that I need to be doing to complete my day; a multitasker. My parents were always on my case because I was "out of breath" and on my cordless or cell phone every time they'd call me when I was a busy, multi-tasking, working mother of four and always on the go. They felt that I was being rude because I wasn't "sitting still' to talk on the phone. 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 the time to call them back. That was why I so heavily embraced email and then ultimately texting, as they came about. Both gave me the "out" that I needed and a way to still feel like I was keeping in touch at the same time. It was hard finding a balance with that older generation who were set in their non-technological ways. Now, the shoe is on the other foot and we are feeling ignored and unimportant with texting; the same way they felt.
There needs to be a balance. We should not stray so far away from vocal communication that we jeopardize our personal relationships. Everyone is busy, (I hate that word and how loosely it's used when making excuses for our shortcomings and lack of communication) but we can 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 suitable balance that keeps everyone's mind at ease and eliminates worry, fear, and confusion? We acknowledge that we are busier now than ever before. Our children are involved in more the 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". In fact, one of the fond memories that I have that involves texting was when my daughter was away at college and she would text me "goodnight, drive safe, I love you" when she knew that I was at work (I'm an evening shift nurse). Not only was it comforting knowing that she was thinking of me, but it actually made me more alert and conscious when I finally did punch out and start my 45-minute drive home at midnight.
In an effort to practice what I'm preaching, I make a point to answer every text and email as promptly as I can; even if I can't give a detailed or complete response at that moment, I at best acknowledge the sender briefly and then respond fully when the time is right. I have my "read-receipts" (iPhone users) turned on for those closest to me so they at least know that I have received and read their message. I don’t want to make anyone unimportant. In other words “treat others as you’d like to be treated" applies here. After all, if we are communicating, then in some way, you are someone who is important in my life and I want you to know this. It’s really that simple and is an easy fix to preserving our humanity and our relationships if we are going to fully embrace this technology and use it as our primary mode of communication.
Texting Vs. Talking
Choose the answer that best describes your personal feelings on this topic
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.
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Debra Roberts