Texting and Messaging: A Blessing or a Curse

While texting and messaging is a fun and convenient tool and a great way to keep in touch when you otherwise may not, it tends to create more problems than it should.  I admit that it was with profound relief that I embraced the technology of e-mail, instant messaging and now, texting.  In a nutshell, it gives us the all-coveted “control and boundary-setting” ability and has hence become our second nature.  While texting and messaging has it’s place, it shouldn’t be “every place” or “every time” and definitely not the sole way to navigate through our relationships.

“10% of conflict is due to difference in opinion. But 90% is due to wrong tone of voice”…let’s also add body language, facial expressions, and eye contact which cannot be depicted via text, which causes dialogue to be misconstrued in a negative way.  It can make the most genuine of statements come across insincere.  I recently read that only 7% of what we would normally convey in person, is actually conveyed during a text.  Just as I would not run a marathon with only 7 percent of my available effort, I certainly do not wish to communicate in such a way, knowing the chances that it’s not going to turn out favorable.

Texting and messaging makes sharing negative feelings easier since you don’t have to actually “face” the person.  Take for example, you wish to apologize to someone, but you do it via a text message…what is missed here?  A true apology means that I know I’ve hurt you and I can look into your eyes and you can hear the tone in my voice and see that I’m truly sorry.  This step is missed via text dialogue and can come across as a cowardly, insincere approach to apologizing.  The “appeal” of texting…simply put, is less painful for the sender and allows for intended avoidance.  It’s a cop out at times and does not teach us how to handle direct conflict.  This is my fear for current and future generations.  I’ve experienced this within my family.  There is more unacknowledged dialogue than there is acknowledged.  I am not good with this and cannot let anything go or accept that they do not want to converse with me and are choosing that path.  Instead, I make things worse by continuing to send more messages which starts the vicious cycle of pain, anger, resentment and feelings of being unloved or unwanted, which may not be the case, but is the easiest and most elementary way of accepting what is happening.  For these reasons, I make it a point to answer every text and email as promptly as I can.  I don’t ever want to make anyone feel bad or unimportant.  In other words “treat others as you’d like to be treated”…that applies here too.  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.

Now, what about the bad stuff?  That overwhelming fear of the worst when your child doesn’t respond when you check up or check in on them?  What about the basic “unanswered texts”…the seemingly “ignored” dialogue that leaves you wondering:  “Did they see/receive it”?  “Do they just not care to answer”?  “Are they being an ass and flat-out ignoring me”?  “Was I out of line?”  “Should I resend the dialogue?  “Did I say something that was upsetting because I certainly didn’t mean to”?  Whether in a personal or professional setting, it causes distress and confusion.  I’ve done and thought these things, probably daily in fact.  I’ve been that pain in the ass that resends things a few times, hoping that it’s because it was missed, vs. ignored or that it got lost in cyber space (which usually is not the case anymore).  No more of that.  It’s “once and done” from now on, it’s not worth the time, the worry, the headache or the hurt feelings.  If I need to know something bad enough, I will push the “call” button.  If they don’t answer, I will take the hint and move on.  It’s time to start giving benefit of the doubt to people.

I always say that I’m going to go back to using the phone anyways…with the expectation that I will be usually be talking to a voicemail since most folks, myself included, are guilty of this; then use a text to “return the call”.  Gone are the days of actually “speaking” to one another!  It seemed to happen almost overnight as just a few short years ago, my girlfriends and I didn’t think twice about calling each other 5 times in one day just to tell them what our kids did, invite them to coffee or dinner, complain/share about something crazy that just happened, ask for a recipe or just to shoot the shit.  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 either, I can’t stand the thing personally unless I can pop in my headphones or use “hands-free” and chat while going about my cleaning, gardening–even exercising, or whatever it is that I need to be doing to complete my day.  I used to hate being tethered to the phone cord when my kids were little as I couldn’t get to them because the person on the other end wouldn’t stop talking.  Then cordless technology allowed me to care for the kids and to “get things done” while talking, creating the birth of “multitasking”, while still letting my loved ones know that I cared.  I found nothing wrong with that and still don’t really, other than the fact that I know I am not giving (or receiving) their undivided attention and that I am likely giving off the message that I do not feel that they are not important enough for me to stop what I’m doing long enough to engage in them fully.  The other side of this, and what is true in my situation and I’m sure for most of us, is that I want to talk to the person, but simply can’t make the time at that moment, so I try to satisfy them and myself.  My parents used to get so angry with me when they would call and I’d answer while out doing my run or driving the kids someplace (but letting it go to the answering machine or voicemail never fared well either).  They always took it as an insult that I didn’t have time for them, when in reality, I was trying to make everyone happy and “get in what I could with them” at that moment while also giving my kids and myself what we all needed.  This is where giving folks the benefit of the doubt (there’s that phrase again) and not always thinking the worst of someone comes into play and then “communicating in person” about it can help.  But “benefit of the doubt” is another blog topic all together!

I love technology and it’s continuing evolution, but not when it affects relationships or causes emotional distress.  The burning question is how can we find a suitable balance?  We are busier now than ever before.  Our children are involved in three times the activities than when we were kids.  Our jobs are more demanding and time consuming and we are involved in more than earlier generations.  That’s the reality.  Now we need to find the cure for preserving our humanity and our relationships.


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