Taking it to the textreme Why we need to talk more and text less

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When it comes to texting, there are two kinds of people: those who reply right away, and those who don’t. I’m a pretty strong advocate of the former. I like to think replying in a timely manner, particularly when someone needs something from you, is the courteous thing to do. Sometimes, however, that isn’t the case.

As much as I hate the archetypical teenager who’s glued to their phone in literally every family movie ever, it used to be a fairly accurate representation of me. I had a friend who lived on the other side of Canada, and since visiting each other was out of the question, our favourite form of communication was through iMessage. We loved talking to each other so much that we texted each other constantly throughout the day. We dreamt up fictional universes, shared our insecurities and when one of us wanted to rant about something, the other one of us was always there to listen.

I became so absorbed that my parents made a rule prohibiting phones at the dinner table. In retaliation, I would sneak away to the washroom, just so I could text her back. Whenever I smiled at my phone, my parents would know it was her. “What’s the hurry?” they would ask, chiding me. “Why can’t it wait?” It was never that I couldn’t wait. I just didn’t want to.

Although I had every intention of carrying through with our connection, transitioning to the demands of university was too much for me to juggle. My friend proved less than understanding to this change. If I didn’t reply, it meant that I didn’t care. Any response that took longer than 10 minutes was too long. One-word sentences like “nice” were disingenuous; “lol” seemed unengaged. We agreed to stop using “lmao” in our conversations because it seemed too “passive aggressive.” “Okay” meant things were not at all okay. They became words we used when we wanted to hurt each other–to make the other person doubt themselves.

I became antsy checking my phone dreading the exact moment she’d text me good morning. I started making excuses, desperate to find anything that could explain my inevitable lapses. I was taking a shower. I forgot to charge my phone. I passed out for a nap because class had exhausted me. I was exhausted — but not from class, from talking. Even the mere sight of an alert would give me bouts of anxiety.

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Our friendship had no happy ending. The more we argued, the more I drew away. My friend went off to university herself the following year, and she got caught up in her life, much like I had in mine. The damage we had done to each other, however, was irreparable. It was impossible to part amicably, to check in every once in a while. So we cut all our ties.

Deleting her as a contact was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and knowing I could never reach out to her again made me feel incredibly alone. But it also helped me realize that texting each other constantly had been neither normal nor healthy. Texting was meant to be a convenience, not a hindrance. We shouldn’t have gone out of our ways to put texting first, and we should have never come to depend on each other in the way that we did. Life came first. When you were busy, the people you texted were supposed to understand.

I still get anxious when people don’t reply to me quickly, and the truth is, I could spend a lifetime worrying about why people take their time to reply. I always consider the possibility that people are making excuses, because I kept on making them myself. I always wonder whether I’m being exhaustive, because I felt that way so often trying to keep our conversations going. I’ve become hypersensitive to cues that indicate people are unhappy with me through text, because I was always expected to recognize the signs without ever being explicitly told.

Worrying, of course, does me no good. I remind myself of that every day. I tell myself to remember why I’m friends with people in the first place, because of their personalities and not because of the way we choose to phrase our texts. I tell myself to remember that if someone has an issue with me, I have to trust they’ll take it up with me in person. Texting isn’t meant to be a replacement for talking. If there’s something important to be said, then we have to speak up about it with our phones down.

 

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