To be fair, I’m not big on text messages at all… at least, not in the way they’ve been used in the last couple of years: a method of conversation. I’ve always seen text messages as a means to an end, a way to deliver time-sensitive info: “I’m on my way,” “There’s traffic on McAdams,” “Meet me in 10…” and so forth. I accept that my, and successive, generations tend to look at the text message as a method in which to have full-on conversations so they don’t have to call each other; whereas I’d rather just pick up the phone.
That split in ‘textual philosophy’ has caused some difficulty for me over the years. In fact, the entire reason I own an iPad centers around the fact that a former boyfriend preferred texting to communicate & I wanted to talk on the phone… so he bought me the 2 when it came out so we could use “FaceTime.” I guess that was our “meet in the middle” and it was a good compromise. I’m busy. When I get a text, I have to stop what I’m doing to deal with it… I can’t type a document and text at the same time; and I’m barely coordinated enough to walk/chew gum at the same time – texting is beyond pushing it. My klutziness aside, the truth is that it can be a dangerous distraction: most of us have proven that we can’t text and drive well: statistics show you are 23 times more likely to get into an accident when texting while driving.
Beyond all that, it’s intrusive: I can’t control “acceptable text times,” nor is there a universal understanding that I, as the recipient, am under no obligation to immediately respond just because someone sends me a text. If I don’t want to talk on the phone, I can forward people to voicemail and that’s considered o.k. It’s somewhat beyond the pale ridiculous to me the number of times I’ve had someone blow up my phone with texts messages telling me how important it is that I respond -immediately- to their text. Most of the time, I can’t help but laugh (1) because they clearly don’t get the psychology behind the text message; though sometimes, with some? It’s a cue to an underlying issue of narcism & self-centeredness: they’re the most important person in the universe so why haven’t you responded yet?! If it’s an emergency, perhaps a less passive form of communication should be used.. like, picking up the phone.
It’s important to recognize that text messaging is best suited for information delivery as it is an asynchronous form of communication. In a ‘face-to-face’ conversation, the parties involved are sending/receiving information during the same time frame: the delivery is controlled & understood by all parties. Much like cyberspace, there’s a temporal fluidity that exists with texting that is absent from face-to-face communication. When I’m having a conversation with someone “in real-time,” face-to-face, a time boundary exists. At some point, we know the conversation has to end because there are other things that need to get done, other places we need to go/do/be & we often have the benefit of visual cues as to when we’re approaching those boundaries thanks to visual cues. In cyberspace, those boundaries disappear completely and conversation can be had at an adjustable speed, stretched & paced as far as the involved parties want or need. I can respond to Carrie’s FB message or Mike’s comment on my FB wall at 2am and no one thinks a thing of it.
Speaking of timing, we generally understand it’s rude to call people in the middle of the night; but the etiquette surrounding text messaging is somewhat nebulous. Some people think it’s a 24/7 communication tool because, they rationalize, you can just put your phone on silent if you don’t want to be bothered. That’s always seemed somewhat presumptuous to me – just because you can doesn’t mean that is a universal truth. As a parent, I don’t want my phone on silent when my kids are out of the house. Some people are ‘on call’ and can’t. Either way, the text sender doesn’t know because there’s no “texting status” that says I’m open (or not) to receiving texts at this time – so, doesn’t solve the annoyance issue with repetitive requests for response.
The other major difference in psychology with text as a method of communication surrounds the lack of visual & audial cues. Facial cues are important in understanding the other party’s intent. Audial cues help with understanding tone & feeling. The better we know someone, the more we’re able to accurately activate our imagination & gauge what the other person is projecting through their words. But we’re never completely safe from transference: our expectation & presupposed opinions on how other people react to & perceive us. We’re also more readily susceptible to projecting our emotions onto the other person’s sent words; we “read” them under the lighting of our current mood.
Adding in More (People)
So when you look at all that, it’s clear it can be hard enough to successfully engage ONE person in a text conversation and now we’ve added the ability to message en group. Great. This, in my opinion, is largely a disaster and frankly? To the point of the post, I want to OPT OUT.
It’s most frequently done at the sole benefit of the sender; it’s ‘easier’ than sending the same message out individually. Rarely is a ‘group conversation’ really the intent – it’s just mass messaging. The problem is that now some carriers allow for group response. I -hate- this; most of the time, I’ve not known some-to-most of the people in the group message so when they respond to the sender? I get a notification that I have a new text message from a phone number I don’t know… I have no idea who just texted me. They don’t know me, either – so their text message wasn’t really to me.. it was in response to our mutual connection & so really not an ‘interactive’ insight. In short? It’s a giant waste of my time and often a major distraction because many feel the need to respond directly to the informative text originally sent. I recently returned from a trip and when I turned on the phone, it blew up with texts – 37 of them – primarily in response to a couple of group texts that had been sent out by friends. Only 2 of them were really applicable to me: the ones from the senders sharing their announcements.
To my friends that do this I want to say: I value you but not the group texts. It sort of makes me want to throw my phone at you, or the wall.. or anywhere that’s far away from me. Please. Stop…. or at least, consider this my opt-out.
(1) except it’s usually annoying as all get-out because it NEVER happens at a convenient time
(2) though iPhone’s recent “sent/delivered/read” notifications on its texting platform have certainly been helpful but only works when two iPhone users are texting each other.