The art of texting
I will be the first to say it — I am addicted to my phone. When I leave it in another room, I always make sure the audio is up loud so I know if someone wants to talk. In those small seminar classes where the teacher can see your every move, I sometimes reach into my bag to “get chapstick” just to see if I have any new texts. And back when I took Introduction to Media Studies and had to live without my phone for a whole 24 hours, I had some of the worst separation anxiety of my life.
It’s kind of funny how quickly I, and we as a society, have become addicted to our phones. Gone are the days in elementary school when you knew your best friends’ numbers by heart and your mom used to yell at you to wrap up the conversation so dad could call as he was headed home from the office. Gone are the days in middle school when everyone was first getting a phone and if we sent more than 200 texts a month we’d owe our parents money, which was probably one of the reasons we all became AIM addicts. By the time high school rolled around, my dad had caved and gotten me an unlimited texting plan, and I became the full-fledged addict I am today.
Every addiction requires a lot of brain space and texting is no exception. There’s a reason trashy magazines I love to buy, such as Cosmopolitan, always have a spread on how to decode what exactly a text means. Tone gets lost over text message and things can be misconstrued easily. Some people always text “okay” spelled out, so you know when they text “k,” they are peeved at you. Other people always text “k” but if you’re like me, you’ll freak out anyway and assume the person is mad at you until you remember they never spell out the word “okay.”
There’s also the issue of how quickly to respond to a text. If your mom is like my mom, you better respond as soon as possible or otherwise she’ll think you have been abducted by aliens. If it’s your roommates, you respond at your earliest convenience, but there’s not the same life-or-death urgency — and you don’t have to respond if it’s a passive aggressive reminder to take out the trash. If it’s one of your good friends, you can relax because hopefully by now they know if you’re a stellar or sub-par texter and won’t take it personally.
But if you’re texting someone you like, you immediately make the simplest of tasks difficult by overanalyzing how quickly you should respond to their initial text. If you respond right away, you look desperate or boring, you tell yourself. If you wait too long, you look uninterested. Then you decide half an hour is an appropriate period of time, but you don’t want it to be obvious you’ve decided to wait exactly half an hour. So should you reply in 27 minutes or 32 minutes? Don’t lie to yourself. You know you’ve had one of these seemingly huge texting crises before. And your roommates can attest to it, because they told you to respond in 37 minutes.
Then there’s the dilemma created when said person texts you back. How much punctuation should you use in your response? Is an exclamation point appropriate? Hint: probably not. Is it too soon for a smiley face? Correct answer: yes. Do I capitalize the first letter of every sentence or keep it casual and go the all-lowercase route? Texting — the method of communication that was supposed to make our lives easier because it meant we had time to formulate our responses and respond at our own leisure — suddenly isn’t so simple at all. That’s when you turn to the trashy magazine and hope some junior editor has some amazing insight, or you pray your roommates are home and willing to draft a response with you to put off their homework. Thankfully, you don’t even have to move from your bed to find out. You can just text them.
Katie’s column runs biweekly Tuesdays. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.