Five Ways Texting Can Change Your Life
I’ve had several conversations about texting lately: the etiquette of it, the worries it induces, the problems it raises. That might sound weird. It’s not like texting is some novel, groundbreaking thing. Is it worth talking about? I think so.
Usage continues to rise so much that survey results are outdated as soon as they’re published, but I can tell you that, personally, I average more than a thousand texts a month. That sounds like an insanely high number, but it helps to keep in mind that I use iMessage instead of instant messaging during the work day.
Still, if I’m doing anything that much, I want to be conscious and deliberate about it. So I thought. And I realized, I do think texting is important. I do think it changes communication. I do think how we use it matters. So. Here are five thoughts on texting.
(With the important caveat that these are not things I do right. These are things I’m working on.)
- Checking in is not meaningless. This is texting’s forte, its métier, its raison d’être. If you find yourself thinking of someone, we have an amazing gift no one in history has ever had – the ability to share it, anywhere in the world, instantly. And it’s unintrusive and almost effortless. What a deal.
“I hope that went okay.” “I bet this makes you smile.” “Look at this!” “I love you.”
People feel valued when they know they’re thought of. What an easy way to make someone feel like they matter. And is there anything more important than making someone feel as if they matter?
- There’s an art to the reply. I think the rhythm of texting is one of the hardest things to get right. Some people respond instantly to every text, and the conversation can feel overwhelming, like it’s taking over your day. Some have a tendency to never reply. Of course, life intervenes: chances are you’re not reclining on a chaise longue with nothing else to do. But conversing validates that someone matters, whereas both intruding and ignoring are ill-mannered. This is true in a live conversation, but we forget that it’s also true over text.
- Don’t always answer right away. This might sound contradictory but it isn’t. Texting is hard to get right – though it’s such a small and simple act – because it’s it’s so compressed and has so little context. When I stop to be sure I’m saying what I want to say, I nearly always rethink my words, to my benefit.
- Don’t always text. Yes, if a situation is difficult, you should call or talk in person. But I’m not just talking about that. Phone calls can make me so happy. Not just when the topic matter is good – sometimes they’re sad or unhappy and I still end up feeling better. It’s connection in a different way and on a different level. Texts give you a lovely sense of subtle immediate connection, and that matters. Phone calls, though, give you quiet pauses, meandering topics, tone, laughter, comfortable silences. Those matter too. I know it’s hard to call these days. It’s awkward-feeling and anxiety-making. Often you text first to ask permission. (When did that become the case?) But I’m trying to have more phone calls.
- Texting matters because connection matters. Happiness, smart people tell us, is built on only three things: autonomy (feeling free), competence (meeting challenges), and relatedness (having connections). If fully 1/3 of your happiness depends on feeling connected, do it right. And remember that we need different levels in our conversation. We need that striation in our psyches. We need the light and the heavy and everything in between.