Stop Texting: It’s Actually (Scientifically And Psychologically) F*cking Up Your Life
Texting is the biggest catch-22 of our time. We love it for its convenience and fun Emojis, but we probably don’t notice just how much it’s making us feel like sh*t.
Everybody loves the feeling of the little red (1) on the screen, but what about when you’re waiting for an answer that never comes?
What about when you’re trying to convey sarcasm, but it just comes off as rude?
What about the irritating expectation that comes with having to always be available to respond to every text, or risk seeming like a jerk?
These are the six aspects of modern-day texting that are psychologically ruining you, and you don’t even know it.
1. The lack of important non-verbal communication tactics
Non-verbal communication, including voice inflection, facial expressions and body language, is a crucial part of everyday life. None of these things, however, come through via text, and this will affect how people communicate with you.
If you generally rely on your quirky personality traits, humorous sarcasm and offbeat humor in social situations, you can kiss those goodbye when you’re on your phone.
Good luck trying to convey that your jokey insult as an actual joke; without the proper voice inflection, it’ll be way too easy over text to interpret it as hurtful.
Grammar and uppercase letters have become the new, sometimes inaccurate form of non-verbal communication. Have fun trying to play off your period as a real period. Whenever the rigid grammatical finality that is the period enters a text, people always think it means you’re being stern, even if you weren’t.
Hey, they had no other non-verbal cues to go on, so what else do you expect?
What about if you find something funny? How will someone be able to tell if your “haha” was just a filler word for an awkward comment or if it really means you laughed?
You need actual, real-life giggles to coincide with the “haha,” but unfortunately, texting doesn’t allow for that. So you have to write “HAHAHA,” which is annoying.
Texting messes with our fundamental understanding of non-verbal cues, replacing them with potentially inaccurate ones. Non-verbal cues are already sometimes difficult to interpret. Texting just makes it worse.
2. The different ways men and women value texting
Ladies, have you ever wondered why your boyfriend or crush isn’t super chatty via text and why it feels like you can have hours-long conversations with your girlfriends about absolutely nothing? And men, have you ever wondered why sometimes it feels like your female friends can talk forever?
Men and women value communication differently. Each gender sees communication as having different significances, and sometimes, those significances don’t align.
Various communication scholars, including Ronald D. Smith, a communications professor at Buffalo State (SUNY), say that men communicate to convey information and women communicate to create intimacy.
For men, communication is a way to exchange information; once the needed information is exchanged, men feel as if there is nothing more to say. Women, on the other hand, view communication as a tool to relate, share and connect, so the scope of conversation for women is unlimited.
Here’s where the problems lie. Texting is communication for the sake of communication. Women text to bond, but men bond by doing activities together, like sharing new skills, playing sports or video games, watching movies or going to the gym.
If a man doesn't text a woman as frequently or enthusiastically as she texts him, she thinks he has no interest in her. She interprets his lack of texting as him not wanting to bond, and then he probably wonders why she’s so randomly upset with him.
Texting is just not a man’s preferred method of intimacy. He needs communication in conjunction with an activity, so he’d probably rather you come over and watch a movie instead. (Which is probably better anyway, if we’re being honest.)
3. The false senses of power
With texting, a new definition of power is created. Throughout history and politics, power has been defined as the ability to influence or direct the behavior of others. Now, power is defined as someone waiting on you for a text message response.
There’s always a palpable power struggle during a texting conversation. Every time you send a text message, there is always a possibility that you will be ignored.
No matter how important you think your text is, the receivers can just put their phones in their pockets and disregard your existence. This kind of thing can’t happen in real life. Someone can’t ignore you when you’re face-to-face.
So, because we (unfortunately) live in a world in which vulnerability is weakness and a lack of power, sending a text means you just lost a little bit of power. Whoever receives your text has your vulnerability in his or her hands and therefore has the power.
The more time that passes without a response, the more power the receiver has. It’s just the science of texting.
What’s worse is that you won’t even realize you’re being ignored until hours later when you still haven't received a answer. Your anxiety will have just been building upon itself for hours until it crumbles into a feeling of abandonment and shame. You’ll be on edge until you get — or don’t get — an answer.
4. The “Read Receipt”
If you have an iPhone, you know about the dreaded Read Receipt. If you don’t have an iPhone, you’ve probably experienced this same phenomenon with Facebook’s “Seen” message that pops up when someone has read your message.
The Read Receipt is the absolute worst invention ever. Read Receipts (and things like them) contribute to the false sense of power that texting creates. When people have Read Receipts turned on, they alert everybody to exactly when they’ve read your text message.
This can mean one of two things: either that person wants you to know he or she saw your message and are just busy right now and will answer soon, or that he or she wants you to know he or she saw your message and is purposely ignoring you.
As most Read Receipt users are not noble, we all know the second one is the most common use of the Read Receipt. Read Receipts assert dominance.
They say, “I’ve definitely seen your message, and you will definitely know whether or not I choose to acknowledge it. Now, you can wallow in wondering why.”
Read Receipts also create a sense of urgency. Say you have your Read Receipt turned on and the person who texted you knows you saw the message.
If you can’t answer in a timely matter, you might feel guilty because that person knows you saw the text, but just aren’t responding. You may rush yourself into answering, which will cause you to resent that person.
I’d rather rationalize self-delusional excuses as to whether or not you saw my text than learn the cold, hard knowledge that comes with the Read Receipt.
5. The creation of bad liars
“Sorry, I didn’t see your message!”
“You sent me a text? I didn’t get it.”
“Hey, sorry, I haven’t looked at my phone all day.”
Lies. All lies. All of us, at the very minimum, periodically glance at our phones throughout the day. Our phone is not just our phone; it’s our alarm clock, our email, our source of news, our social media, our camera, our weather source, our bank accounts and more.
Sure, you don’t have to answer a text message at the exact moment you receive it. Excuses for not answering texts can be legitimate. Maybe you were at your brother’s baseball game, maybe you were at a family dinner, or maybe you were working overtime and were taking a nap.
Those are very reasonable excuses not to answer a text, and I am, in fact, proud of you for sacrificing technology to engage in real life.
However, to say that the reason you didn’t answer is because you were not looking at your phone or didn’t get the text is to lie. You saw it. Especially if you have your Read Receipt on.
When you give me this terrible reason for not answering my text, I have no way of actually proving that you lied (even though I know you did), so I have to just accept the excuse. And then I feel stupid.
6. The never-ending conversation
Normal conversations in person end when somebody either declares that it’s over or walks away. With texting, conversations truly have no beginning and no end.
Think about it. Most people don’t even start a conversation with a “Hey” anymore because that’s boring. You have to be intriguing to start your conversation.
Then, after the initial greeting, a tennis match-style conversation begins where you’re just talking at each other and making sure that the blue-to-grey ratio is 1:1. You text, he/she texts; you text, he/she texts.
It alternates all day. Nonstop. And if you sent the last text, you better not send another one because now it’s his or her turn to continue the conversation.
Well, when does the conversation end? Is it over when a question is asked and answered? Is it over when one of you “senses” that it’s done? What if one person “sensed” that the conversation was over and the other person didn’t, so that second person thinks he or she is being ignored?
I can’t even fathom how we have all gotten so used to being in communication with every single person at every hour of the day. We don’t even give people chances to miss us because we are constantly in the middle of a conversation with them.
They can’t long for us or wonder what we’re up to or where we are because they are always with us; they practically live in our damn pockets.
This never-ending conversation style prevents us from truly spending time alone. In a 2003 study on the benefits of being alone, Christopher R. Long and James R. Averill found that solitude is crucial for the development of the self.
Spending time alone means growing spiritually, discovering your identity without outside distractions, having the freedom to do what you want without needing to cater to other people’s wants and thriving creatively.
So, if you’re constantly in the middle of a texting conversation with somebody and if you have no idea when the conversation is actually over, you truly can never be by yourself. And that’s really important.
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