17 February 2013

Texting Etiquette

On more than one recent occasion, I have found myself either the instigator or the victim, for lack of a better word, of a poorly delivered conversation that left me with various negative results. Frustration, anger, misunderstanding, hurt. I've watched this week as it has happened to someone else as well. The written word. It seems to wound more quickly sometimes than the verbal. The cyberspace lurking between your laptop, smartphone, or tablet and the person with whom you are attempting to communicate peacefully leaves a lot of room to draw conclusions or for misunderstandings, or, let's face it, to just read into things.

We all know that reading between the lines isn't the best way to build relationships, so why leave others with the opportunity to do so? In one of these recent conversations, I was disappointed in the person who was texting me. It is my opinion that texting or emailing someone should never take the place of building real relationships, and it should never, ever be used to avoid confrontation or uncomfortable situations. 

Don't get me wrong. I've made the mistakes. I had a smartphone. I texted almost exclusively to the point that it took getting rid of the smartphone for me to even see the error of my ways. My friendships were suffering. The friendships that were the strongest were the ones with those people who rejected technology all together or chose not to make it their BFF. Is that because there are fewer misunderstandings in a phone conversation about a controversial topic than there are on a Facebook timeline or text thread? Maybe. I think so.

In a recent conversation during which I allowed my emotions to get the best of me, I ended up apologizing for my nasty behavior. Did the person handle the conversation the way it should have been? Definitely not. It shouldn't have been handled through text, and that's exactly what I told the person (after I apologized). Was the information he sent to me wrong? Nope. It was the delivery of the information that caused the problem. After I apologized and shared with him that I was having a very emotional week and that I didn't respond well to him, I made sure to reiterate that some conversations are best left to the phone or face to face confrontations.

His words to me? 

"I think it might just be a generational thing. I text everything." 

Ouch. I will not take you on the "He just called me old" tangent, or the "wait until he's 37 and looks at people who are 50 as if they are close to the same age" tangent.

I sure hope he's wrong. If it becomes okay to text all the hard stuff to our friends, co-workers, fellow church-goers, and families, we will be left with a whole mess of lonely people wishing for connection with others. We will be left with shallow lives, emptiness, and lost relationships.

The phone I am currently using has a QWERTY keyboard. It is not a smartphone, but it works well for what I need (though I do get annoyed with having to empty my text inbox 3x a week). What I love about being able to text again is that I am better in touch with some of my dear friends as well as my sister and even my husband when he's at work. I love that texting helps to alleviate the lack of time a busy mom has to keep in touch.

But texting isn't a substitution for real relationships, for face to face confrontation, for building depth in friendships. It's a tool. Use it to make someone laugh. Use it to flirt with your spouse. Use it to check-in with your teenagers. There are all kinds of good ways to text people. Just be careful. Don't let it get out of hand.

If the above mentioned conversation had taken place without all that cyberspace to allow me to read between the lines, I don't think I would have reacted poorly. Would I have been sad because of the topic of discussion? Sure, but I believe I would have had nothing negative to say, and feelings would have been spared, my feelings and his. The way we word things through text doesn't always come across well. 

So...the moral of this blog today is, "Texting should never take the place of proper etiquette. Don't use it to avoid confrontation, to argue, to cause drama, or to save yourself the hassle of a phone call. Use it for good."

And, since I did digress briefly, I might as well include a second moral to the story. 

"Never tell a woman in her 30s that something is a generational thing. NEVER, EVER."

Or, if you do, make sure you are, say, 20 years OLDER than said woman.

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