Life Lessons

What the Text?

Do you remember getting your first cell phone?

Somewhere between the pinnacle of second-generation (2G – GSM) mobile phones and the advent of third-generation(3G – CDMA) mobile technology, I got one of my first cell phones. I was 27 years old. It was a ruse from the start. It was around the end of 2002 or the beginning of 2003. I was married, we bought a pair of phones. The purpose? To keep in touch in case of emergency. The hidden purpose? So my (then) husband could keep in touch with his mistress(es).

And so began my love-hate relationship with cellular technology.

Particularly texting.

Years before cell phones, we’d call, we’d talk, we’d buy a long cord so we could walk into the next room for privacy. I’d listen into my brother’s calls to his girlfriends. We’d make prank calls (before caller ID). In my house we had the following rules:

  1. No calls after 9pm
  2. No calls during dinner

Life was simple(r).

But now – who hasn’t accidentally texted the wrong person?

Who hasn’t had an auto-correct fail?

Who hasn’t had hurt feelings because tone doesn’t come across in a text?

There are two reasons why I can’t stand texting sometimes:

  1. Tone
  2. Body language (real, not emoji, facial expressions)

In the past 7 days alone I’ve unintentionally offended people I care about.

I’m a technical writer. Brevity, being concise, using simple, easy-to-use language, saying more with less – these are how I make money.

But sometimes a conversation needs to be longer, and face-to-face. Discussions about politics, theology, relationship make-or-break issues – these are among the face-to-face issues.

These are also the very issues lately that led to my not-so-great texting moments.

If you know me, you know who I am, what I’m about, and that I have ZERO ill-will toward people. Especially people I love or spend any amount of time with each week.

But the people who have typically gotten hurt or offended or irritated by my texts usually are those I’m not around often – like for weeks or months. They’ve forgotten that it is my practice to lead with love.

Somehow a screen erases a person and their feelings and leaves us to be bolder than we typically are (or to SEEM bolder). I recognize that this happens to me, and when it does, I’m the first to say (usually aloud) – “dang it – I can’t take that back.” Seriously. If I had a dime for every time I’ve said that to myself the last 7 days…

This, I’m afraid, cannot be helped – even with all of the emojis in the world.

The answer?

I am a thinker, but perhaps I should think longer before I text.

I could Skype or FaceTime instead.

But honestly – I make it a practice to meet my closest friends for coffee or lunch regularly – because real friends don’t let real friends communicate by text only. It’s just not healthy.

So there you have it, Usher, These Are My Confessions.

P.S. if I’ve offended anyone in any way by writing this, it was completely unintentional. The only person I meant to call out for bad textiquette is myself.

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