People Are Texting Before TalkingTexting someone but not talking to them doesn’t apply to too many older adults past 30, but for the younger generations, this is definitely a thing.
While at a friend's house this summer, I noticed her teenage daughter giggling and texting frantically. When I inquired about who she was texting, she responded with a boy’s name and another grin.
Behind a text message is a real person, and no matter how much two people send texts to each other, they’ll never get to know that person without that personal connection. People might scoff at the notion that talking on the phone is no different than texting, but it’s not true. A person’s idiosyncrasies and personality traits come through while talking or hanging out. These things often don’t translate via text message—especially if the person is a brand new acquaintance.
Texts Can Be Misunderstood, Hurting RelationshipsOne of the pitfalls of texting is people sometimes treat text messages like they treat a relationship in general. There's a “closeness” that exists even between a couple that’s a thousand miles apart. We tend to assume people never put their phone down. So when we send a text, we expect an immediate response. We think, “If we lived together, it wouldn’t take five minutes to answer a question.” At the same time, if the person we lived with wasn't in the room, we wouldn’t ask the question until they were back in the same room.
Texting is a static medium. Even with emojis, emotion is often lost and a person reads a text the way they talk with their voice in their head, not the other person’s voice. People can't see what a person is doing on the other side of the telephone. People can't “hear” what other people are texting back.
Everyone Has Different Texting ExpectationsAnyone who knows me well knows that I am a terrible texter. Sure, I go in spurts where I respond right away or have conversations with people, but often I read it (or don’t) and don’t respond for hours, even days. I admit it! Some of my friends and family don’t mind this. But for others, it bothers them. They feel slighted or ignored. Admittedly, there are a handful of people I text and when they don’t text me back, it really ticks me off. Why that is, I’m not sure. Does this mean some people are jerks and others aren’t? Are some people more glued to their phones than others?
A lot of this has to do with someone’s expectations of texting: If you're the kind of person who responds right away, you likely want that in kind. However, there's this growing assumption that because we all have cellphones, we're all glued to them, and because you have my number, you have 24/7 access to me, my brain, and my plans. Nothing could be further from the truth, particularly for introverts, who often screen calls and texts even from people they know and love.
Men and Women Think—and Text—DifferentlyRecently, a friend of mine confided in me about a situation that had her in a quandary: She was regularly texting a love-interest and he didn’t text back right away, or sometimes even within days. But then he’d call her and talk for hours. What did it mean? Heck if I know. But I do know men and women text differently—studies have shown us that.
Men tend to use texting for logistics and as a way to answer and ask specific questions. What time are you arriving? Where are you? Should we meet at 6 p.m.? Women tend to text to be conversational. Occasionally, there's some crossover—I tend to text in a less conversational format, and I’m sure some men talk more over text than normal.
My guy friends tell me men can be wary of texting, and there are particular things from which men have a tendency to pull back, especially in a newly formed friendship with a woman or a potential romantic interest. One thing that bugs guys? The way women plan over text.
Most guys are not, on Tuesday, planning where they will eat dinner on Saturday or where they plan to take a vacation. Guys typically live in the moment. When women ask men via text, “What are your plans for the day?” they might as well ask, “How do you split the atom?” Men have a generic plan in that they’ll get up, go to work (where they likely have a more detailed schedule, but women are not interested in that), and eat something. Beyond that, it’s all up in the air.
Additionally, men aren't given to responding to text messages immediately, and the worst thing a woman can do is inundate a man with four to five text messages in a row, especially if he's not responded to the first. If it’s not critically important, men tend to wait to respond to text messages, and flooding the zone doesn’t help.
Sure, texting is a convenient way to communicate—it’s saved me a lot of headaches. However, for a lot of people, texting is hurting rather than helping their relationships. In the end, communication should be about people, and texting should be a tool rather than a gauge of someone’s character, relationships, or personality traits.