I was 25 years old and living in Angers, France. My soon-to-be girlfriend introduced me to text messaging, by texting me her whereabouts in town or something of that nature. Text messaging seemed funny to me. I remember texting her, “Hi,” not taking the medium too seriously. She thought it was funny that I would use a text message merely to say hello. Nine years later, I still prefer talking on the phone or, better yet, in person while sipping a nice Chai tea at a cafe.
A few years ago, I permanently deleted my Facebook account because, for me, it was a waste of time and a poor means for healthy and meaningful communication. But after that grand deletion, along with 571 or so contacts, I still returned people’s texts and, on occasion, “conversed” with them via text messaging. Was I doing the same thing, only without the graphics and ads?
I recently knew a young woman who seemed as if she only wanted to communicate with me via text. The conversation, if one can call it that, consisted of sound bites and some misinterpretations, and for me, an often unsatisfying level of communication typified these exchanges. From a long distance, we texted back and forth almost every single day for the entire summer. At the same time, much like Facebook, these mutual exchanges became slightly addictive for me, like the dopamine hit from a ‘like’ notification. Texting may even be worse than Facebook due to its necessary brevity. How much can one really say in a few lines? Nevertheless, part of the joy of communication is hearing the nuance in another person’s voice, appreciating their tone, and understanding the context—all of which are impossible with text messaging.
For a single bit of one-time information or a single closed-ended question, texting does the job, for example, “Are you here yet?” But it is the worst form of communication for anything that requires more than a one or two-word answer. After a few less than satisfying experiences communicating via text message, I changed my policy forever. Now, if someone text messages me, I call them back. If I am not able to call them at that moment, I do my best to get back in touch within a day. If I’m on the road or extremely busy, I still call them back and say, “Thanks for getting in touch. Unfortunately, I can’t talk right now or for too long, but I will call you back in a few days. It’s great to hear from you!”
If someone has time to text an open-ended question or a conversational inquiry, then they certainly have time to call and ask the same thing, and they should be prepared for the other person to give a real answer. Calling instead of texting may take a little more confidence and maturity—but it will make you all the more endearing. Otherwise, you risk the recipient feeling as if you don’t care about the answer and are communicating with them solely to pass the time, perhaps like one of those awkward figures we see with their heads down typing away on their phones at a bar or party— the most insecure and unconfident of postures. And remember, just because something has become widespread and accepted doesn’t make it good or the proper thing to do.
So next time you are wondering how your friend or acquaintance is doing and are about to text him or her, I suggest that you pick up a phone and call instead. I guarantee that you will be thought of as a more mature and serious person, and your friend will feel all the more appreciated. Happy calling!
La vie est belle, profitez de chaque moment