Many of us remember a day when we had to be inside, standing in one place to use a telephone if we needed to make a call. Now we can get phone calls while standing in line at the pharmacy or driving down the interstate.
Do you remember writing letters? Maybe you are too young for that! Email seemed revolutionary at first, and suddenly we can get our email on our phones, and send a text message from anywhere at any time! Surreptitiously while sitting in a meeting, just touching base while standing in line at Starbucks, or making last minute contact as we board a plane. It’s a whole new world out there where communication is easy, immediate and can be… very distracting.
When you are dating, texting can be a lot of fun. It gives you an opportunity to touch base with someone and allows them to reply at their convenience. It can be a friendly, “I’m thinking of you” kind thing, a way to finalize plans or let someone know about what’s going on in your day. But text messages can also be overused, misunderstood and distracting. In the early stages of getting to know someone nothing replaces a good ol’ fashioned phone call or a meaningful face-to-face conversation.
Here are some things to ponder as you engage in a texting relationship with someone.
How can you use texts positively? As a convenience, there is nothing like a quick text message to:
- say you are running late
- find someone at a crowed event
- say thank you after a great first date
- flirt with a “thinking about you” message
- send pictures
- add interest and anticipation for the next date
- convey short and sweet, to-the-point information
So what are the potential problems with the texting medium? Here are some things to look out for:
- It is easy for the content of a text message to be misunderstood. For one thing, you can easily misinterpret tone, since in so few words, with so little context, there is no way to convey a real tone or feeling. The problem exists in an email too, but is made more problematic by the abbreviated nature of a text.
- Waiting for responses can be nerve wracking. Though you know that the person you have texted may be in a meeting, in class, on the subway, asleep, in the shower… you still wonder why you have not heard back yet? It’s been five whole minutes (or an hour, or three)! Similar to playing phone tag, text tag can be stressful.
- Hiding behind the detached convenience of a text message can be a red flag, whether it is you or your date who is doing it. Be sure that you don’t try to use texting as a substitute for real, meaningful communication. There is no way to connect on a deep, personal level via text or even email. Face to face is best, but if you have something to say and can’t be together—pick up the phone.
- As linked as you may feel to your partner while texting throughout the day, realize that no matter how hard you try to stay focused on what is in front of you, you can’t. Texting is a real distraction from your current surroundings and the people in front of you. If you receive an inordinate number of texts throughout the day, perhaps simply meaningless, distracting messages, it may be a warning sign that your love interest is trying to keep the focus on him or her, even when you are not together. It can signal control issues or other potential problems.
- Texting late at night can become inappropriate too. It may seem sweet to stay linked together late into the night, but there are limits to what is reasonable. You need to sleep. Put the phone down!
- Finally, there is one no-no that many do not recognize for the completely unacceptable use of a text message that it is: fights and break-ups. No matter how text-savvy you both are, or how much you stay connected that way during your time apart, fights and break ups are for in person.
The way we date and think about relationships is constantly changing. There was a time when it was normal for separated lovers to have to wait weeks or even months to hear from one another by mail. The telephone changed all that, and the rest is history. In this electronic world of ours, with the number of gadgets at our disposal growing at a seemingly exponential rate, texting is here to stay. Enjoy its benefits and be savvy about its pitfalls. It can be a great tool when used considerately.