Texting. The good, bad and the really ugly. Ever had this digital exchange?
I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY YOU THINK I’M YELLING. I’M JUST TRYING TO HAVE A CONVERSATION WITH YOU. WHAT DID I SAY TO MAKE YOU THINK I’M ANGRY? IF IT’S ABOUT LAST WEEK, I’M SORRY. HOW MANY TIMES CAN I APOLOGIZE? LEAVE IT TO YOU TO STAY MAD OVER THE TINIEST THINGS. WHATEVER HAPPENED TO FORGIVE AND FORGET? Oops. I had the caps on. Sorrrry.
“Are you there yet? I heard on the news there was an accident and traffic’s bumper to bumper.” No response.
“Babe, are you okay?” Again, no reply.
“Did something happen? You should have been there already.” Still no reply.
Becoming frantic, he texts again. “WHAT HAPPENED???!!!”
Now he’s all worked up and imagining the worst when several minutes later he gets a response, “Sorry, I left my phone in my car. I’m good.”
Or you’ve spent quite some time compiling a carefully thought-out text that is important to you and the response you receive is, “K.” Times like these really make me miss my princess phone.
Texting is fast, easy and often very satisfying, like placing a check mark on your to-do list when completing a task. As a text flies out into cyber-oblivion, I often get a feeling of contentment with one less thing in my brain on which to ruminate.
Most will agree, some texting applications have definitely improved our lives, such as communication with doctor’s offices and those that offer support for at-risk or suicidal individuals in times of crisis. Texting may also allow introverted people an emotionally safe milieu for increased and more optimal communications, so long as it is used correctly.
But haven’t we lost something? Sherry Turkle, author of Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age posts, “The problem isn’t that people have this new, interesting, intimate way of touching base… the trouble is what happens to face-to-face conversation if your phone is always there.” Because texting reduces conversation to words or photos on a screen that creates a brief, stilted fragmental communication pattern, no amount of emojis or exclamation points can make up for tone, effective listening, visual cues (like reading body language) and good old-fashioned in- person contact.
Texting is not a friend to our reactive and/or impulsive side. Without taking a more “thought-full” stance — taking a moment to pause, breathe and reflect on what we are saying and how our words might affect someone — we could reactively press send and the message is out there. As philosopher Bahya Ibn Pakuda said, “Days are scrolls. Write thereon only what you would like to have remembered about you.”
It is a widely known fact that the Lubavitcher Rebbe never called out to his wife when he wanted to communicate something. Rather, he would approach her and speak with her directly. Can you imagine the positive impact on all of us from this one small act?
Like the 70’s AT&T jingle said, “Reach out and touch someone.” Put down your phone and touch someone’s heart with loving words that come straight from your mouth.
Amy Austin is a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFC# 41252) and doctor of clinical psychology in Rancho Mirage. Dr. Amy can be reached at (760) 774.0047.