I remember distinctly how excited I was to get texting on my cell phone, as a reward for good grades. I had 200 texts allowed for both incoming and outgoing, and for the most part, I watched them diligently. With so few texts allowed and without Facebook or email (actually, that was in the time of MySpace), most of my communication took place over the telephone.
I confess that now, I’ve abused texting as much as anyone else. I’ve texted in class, texted while driving (not to worry, it’s not often), texted at parties, texted during important conversations. Who would have thought it would be considered normal behavior, though perhaps not healthy, to pick up a piece of plastic every few minutes?
Finally, I started to get angry whenever my phone would buzz, because it meant that someone, however trivial or important, demanded immediate attention from me. My life no longer revolved around fulfilling my duties; instead, I had let the evil demon sneak in and take hold of me.
I started to turn it on silent, leave it somewhere, so I wouldn’t be tempted to look at it, and ignore the phone, no matter who was trying to get ahold of me. Of course, that backfired, too. In my attempt to not let my phone control me, I had unwittingly let it take over again.
All of the sudden, I realized how little texting had ever done for me. It had given this weight and importance to transient relationships, where I would communicate more with people who I would probably not speak to in a year, much less remember. In fact, there’s quite a few people on my iPhone contact list whose names draw a blank.
In being irritated with the demands of those who wouldn’t have a place of importance in my life, I threw out my communication with those who were important. If a good friend needed to contact me, I had made that impossible at certain times by ignoring my phone for hours. What else was I to do?
Texting had eroded my good relationships, to the point where I could send a casual, but meaningless text in an attempt to maintain an ongoing conversation or to promote a sense of intimacy. In reality, I wasn’t putting any real or substantial effort forth.
I’ve started a new thing now, since I cannot rid myself of texting entirely. I’d be shutting out nearly every person who communicates with me and making it an inconvenience for both of us. What I have been doing, is responding to the more important texts more regularly and ignoring the ones that can wait. It’s the only way that I can seem to balance and regulate the demands that come at every hour of the day and night.
I cannot shut texting out of my life entirely, because that’s the primary method of communication for most people under 30 (and many over). Instead, I just have to make peace with texting, without allowing it to rule. When there are times when I need silence and four walls, it’s okay for me to say “no” to the phone. The world can wait.
For more on texting, read “The Flight from Conversation“.
How has texting affected your life? Has it improved your communication? Has it helped or hurt your relationships with others?