Usually an in-person followup conversation that lasts longer than the two hour texting conversation you had when you got pissed at each other for thinking the other person was saying something other than what they meant (and you tried to ‘hash-it-out’ using the same supposedly more efficient communication device that got you into the mess, only to make you and the other person more angry); but in all reality it’s your fault because you failed to realize how the other person might interpret what you said.
As much as I love texting, let’s face it: you and I still have a lot to learn about using it. One of the things I find myself doing when I text, is trying to communicate things in ways that can only be communicated in person: for example sarcasm (tone of voice) and ::shrugs:: (body language). Instead of waiting till the next time I see the person I am texting (or just call them), I try to use text messaging as if I am having a ‘normal’ conversation with the person; because whatever I have to say via an impersonal communicative device is so important and urgent that I can’t waste the extra 10 seconds it would take to go through my contact list and call the person. I HAVE TO TELL THEM NOW! So instead I just tell the person whatever I would say as if we were face-to-face. Boom! Done. No problem, right? WRONG!!!
There are two very important components of communication we leave out when we text: body language and tone of voice. This means when I text, I am missing 66% of normal communication I would have with a person face-to-face. To prove my point: I am yelling at my laptop screen and waving my hands frantically to express my exasperation, but all you can read are these words. Sure, you can try to recreate body language and tone of voice in a text, but it’s not the same; and who honestly takes the time to do that!? The substitution of both body language and tone of voice in a text message requires a set of writing skills and attention to detail that defeats the purpose of texting. Also, who is even aware they can’t communicate body language or tone of voice in a text? At least nobody seems to stop and take the time to ponder this. Emoticons would be helpful (for example 😉 or
:x), but I never use them and I only know one person who does. And these just take too much time. I mean, I would have to pull up a different keyboard (sometimes 2! count ’em 2! different keyboards) to use the characters I want; that’s at least another second, maybe two.
Also, at times I find myself responding in text conversations with greater haste than I would an in-person conversation. I don’t know what it is but I got to send out what I am feeling and have to say before the other person has the time to respond and says anything else. There is no time to review what I wrote because it’ll take too long! Oh, wait; that’s probably it, isn’t it? I am an impatient egotistical narcissist that just wants to see himself text. I find this extremely ironic because in our culture it’s considered extremely rude to try to say all that you want to say in a manner that doesn’t want to give the other person a chance to respond. I would never think it justifiable to behave this way in-person; so why do I do it in texting?
Alas, now I have got three things working against me when I text: I am unable to communicate body language, I am unable to communicate tone of voice, and I am an impatient self-centered texter. I thought I could find some helpful tips on-line about texting decorum and etiquette; but all I could find were ‘rules/guidelines’ on texting in the midst of company. They say things like “don’t text while talking to someone” or “silence your phone when texting in a library or study lounge” Well, duuuuuh! What I was looking for is guidelines on how to communicate to the person I am texting; not how to text when I am in public.
You don’t have to take my word for it; but here are some guidelines I developed for my texting interactions:
1. Read before you text. We were told to “think before we speak” all the time as little kids (at least I was, and it’s still hard as Hell for me today), it should be even easier to think before we text. I mean, I can actually review what I am about to say before I say it. We should take advantage of this and read everything we text before we send it.
2. Know your audience. This is especially helpful when sending ‘group messages’ for gathering people. Not everyone may respond gleefully to your sense of comedic genius. Remember, you are only using 33% of your normal amount of communication. People who might of thought you were kind of a buffoon before, might now think you’re a flat out idiot.
3. Don’t ask a girl out via text. This one is a no-brainer, but I had to say it: for a clear conscience.
4. Ask to discuss later. Chances are if you are having frequent text conversations with someone, you also have many opportunities to see this person face-to-face. It’s called delayed gratification people. If the conversation you are having via text requires extensive qualification, talk to them later about it. Look, it’s simple just ask/tell them “I would rather listen to what you have to say in person. Can we talk about this later? What time works for you?” Plus if you are a dude trying to make good with a specific lady friend, she’ll be impressed by your desire to actually listen to what she has to say with the full three-tiered force of her communication style. If it’s difficult to find a time to meet with the other person, simply ask to call him/her instead.