Conduct any kind of survey, and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t agree that social media has forever changed the way our society communicates with each other.
Conversations that used to have to wait until we saw each in person or when one of us got the message on our answering machine after we got home from work now take place instantly. Now we have Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and dozens of other social cyber groups that we can use to dazzle thousands of people we’ve never actually met with reports and photos of our exciting or perfect lives, or solicit virtual group hugs because some disaster has befallen us.
In most cases, I love Facebook, Twitter has its purposes, and Pinterest can be downright addicting. The communication mode that continues to baffle me is texting.
It’s not that I don’t know how to do it (my then-10-year-old taught me). Or that it’s become the downfall of English grammar and punctuation (without question). Or even that I see people doing it at work, at restaurants and movie theaters, and stupidly, while driving (yep, people are still doing that). But I recently stood next to a couple texting each other while in the same room. It was all I could do to not grab the guy and ask, “Don’t you know she’s standing right over there??”
Texting appears to have replaced the art of live communication. It’s not real. It works beautifully for conversations like “What time are we meeting?” “9:30.” “Okay.” But true communication requires context. Visual cues, body language, and facial expressions. Sometimes what we have to say needs to be said In Real Life. Sometimes we just need to put down the phone and talk to each other.
The Texting Never-Never List:
1. Angry texts. “Pick up your damn phone!” “Where the HELL are you??” If you want to shout at me, do it when I can shout back or slam the door in your face. There’s no sport in text-fighting.
2. Marriage proposals. Seriously?? Unless you’re in a war zone or under a mountaintop avalanche and these could possibly be your last words, “Will you marry me?” in a text is the least romantic proposal ever.
3. Breakup or Divorce texts. “I love you, but it’s just not working for me anymore.” Or “I’m leaving you for our daughter’s college roommate. Remember Porsche?” What are you, like, 12?? If you’ve spent 20 years together, bought a house and a dog, and had two kids with this woman, grow up and go tell her in person.
4. Group texts. I hate these. Someone blasts a text out to you and a dozen or so people you don’t know, who then proceed to have an on-going, active discussion amongst themselves, resulting in your text message notification beeper going off all. day. long.
5. Cryptic texts. “Clinic just called with my test results back. Need to talk to you.” “The police were just here. Call me.” These require multiple back-and-forths, trying to get to the point. Save us all time and call me to tell me exactly what’s going on.
6. Douche texts. “Great to meet you last night. What’s your friend’s number?” Or “Wife is out of town. Wanna hook up?” How about you give me your wife’s number, buddy?
7. Idiot texts. These include all texts to your drug dealer or bookie. “Hey, I’m in the parking lot. Has the stuff arrived yet?” Or “I lost again? Crap. I’ll have your money tomorrow.” It’s been done.
8. Sexy texts (or God forbid, photo texts of your naked junk) to someone other than your wife. Ask any politician how this one ends.
9. Bad news texts. “You’re fired.” Or “Wrecked your car, dude.” Just bad form.
10. Premature texts. “I love you,” when neither of you has said it before. It just lacks a little…well, it lacks everything.
11. Trash talking texts. “Suzie is such a slut.” Or “What does she see in that guy? He’s a pig.” You now have no plausible deniability that you said those things. And once it’s in someone’s message box, you have no control over who that person sends them to. This would include sending it to Suzie. Or the pig.
12. Death in the family. This includes Binkie, the family cat. “At your house. I think your cat is dead” or worse, “Great-Aunt Bertha died. Call home” should never be delivered via typed message. Grab a bottle of wine, some tissues, and deliver this in person.
13. Apology texts. A casual text for a minor indiscretion (“Sorry I didn’t join up with you guys last night. Bad shrimp. Will call later) is acceptable. But if you’ve really stepped in it, and you need to undo something BIG, any attempts to make light or be cute will backfire. “Sry. I was a jerk 4 sleeping with yr sister. Forgive?” is just tacky.
13. The deep texts. Trying to resolve or debate anything more significant than what time to meet at the restaurant after work is just stupid via texting. Long, complicated texts are hard to read and require the reader to reply with something equally pithy. If you want to talk about the meaning of life, or whether or not you should splurge on that rockin’ black leather jacket, come over. I’ll pour the wine.
14. Sarcastic texts. If you’re pissed off because he forgot to pick up the wine on the way home or he forgot to tell you he was bringing four guests over for dinner, texting a “Thanks for thinking about me, jackass” will make you feel better only until you come face-to-face with this person again. Sarcasm can take a minor annoyance and turn it into a full-fledged street brawl in 60 seconds flat.
14. Drunk texts. Anything you have to say after more than three drinks or after midnight, whichever comes first. This includes jokes (trust me, they won’t still be funny in the morning), rants to your boss (the only time when “You’re fired” texts can be appropriate), or drunk begging to an ex you want back (yeah, that won’t be humiliating at breakfast).
So please, every once in a while, put down your phone. Or better yet, turn it off. Then let’s go have lunch and just talk.