Texting culture has burdened us with the expectation to be reachable and responsive 24/7. What is such expectation costing us?
Although I didn’t feel entirely alone in suffering from texting induced anxiety, I didn’t think the problem was relevant enough to grant clinical terms, such as textiety and textaphrenia.
Text messaging is an essential part of communication, providing a quick and convenient method to stay connected with our family, friends, and acquaintances. But, despite being a useful mode of communication, the expectation to be reachable and responsive 24/7, literally, can be very stressful and overwhelming for many.
Textiety refers to the anxious feeling one gets from not receiving or sending text messages.
Mental health professionals are reporting anxiety around texting show up in their practice, and it is now part of a new area of research and treatment related to mobile devices and online communication.
In the professional world, it is generally acceptable to respond back to emails within a 48-hour period, unless the email is urgent and requires immediate response. As communication becomes increasingly instant, the expectation might have changed. But, I appreciate the 48-hour rule as a general guideline.
Almost anyone with a smartphone, including myself, are attached to our phone constantly and see most text messages as they arrive or shortly after they’ve arrived. Yet, there are no generally agreed upon rules for when to respond to text messages that aren’t urgent.
Does being on our phone constantly, for whatever reason, grant immediate response to a text message?
Is it considered acceptable to respond back if it is within a few hours?
Or, is it okay as long as it is within the same day, and not the next day?
What if I don’t remember to reply back for a few days?
What about my relationship to the person?
There isn’t really any set protocol or guide available for what is considered acceptable texting etiquette, and that is the real problem.
We are bestowed with this communication method without any general rules on how to utilize it in different contexts and in relation to the people we are communicating with.
Don’t get me wrong. I do enjoy receiving texts.
It feels good to have people reach out to me. However, the expectation I feel that I need to respond right away throws me in a loop of delaying response, forgetting to respond, remembering when it’s too late, feeling anxious I might have offended the person, and then either apologetically responding back or deciding to just forget about it.
This has created a cycle of anxiety-fuelled texting experience.
I have stopped apologizing to friends because what is the point if I’m going to continue doing it over and over again?
Luckily, most of my close friends are understanding, and forgiving.
A friend of mine jokes about expecting a response from me within 3-4 business days, while another friend of mine is even worse than I am and we accept each other’s texting flaws. If it is really important, I can call or text her multiple times until she responds, which she almost always does.
But I don’t share that understanding and close bond with everyone I communicate with via texting. Not everyone can say, ‘oh, that’s just her‘ or text me jokingly that they expect a response within 5 business days.
Then, I’m left with the nagging sense that there are messages left unattended to and people left on ‘ignore’ weighting on my consciousness.
I don’t necessarily forget to respond, either. It is rather the expectation of when and how I should respond, which is entirely uncertain to me, that takes too much energy to deal with. Before I know it, the time has gone by, and the textiety starts to set in.
Now, I can talk on the phone for hours, and in person for days. The expectations are pretty clear to me in such modes of communication despite not always excelling at them.
Unfortunately, I cannot completely forge texting as a mode of communication since it is entirely too useful. As a way of dealing with my textiety, I try to follow the following three general rules to manage the expectations of our texting culture while mantaining my sanity:
- Respond back to non-urgent text messages in bulk at certain times of the day, such as in the afternoon or right before bed.
- Give myself a 48-hour time period to respond back to non-urgent text messages, and try to stick to it. If corporates can survive with that rule, so, too, can my friends, family, acquaintances and whoever else.
- Don’t expect others to respond to me right away, either. Do unto others…
I find texting culture a bit ridiculous.
The entitlement we feel to people’s attention and emotional labour to be available and responsive 24/7 is absurd.
I feel truly grateful to the people in my life who have taught me that it is okay to respond to a text message in a few hours, days, or even months.
I didn’t realize how unnecessary constant texting was until I got back in touch with an old roommate, who is not exactly the texting type. Our initial communication began via email, and it was normal for us to respond back after a month or so, which made our communication genuine and through. I had time to respond, indefinitely, without feeling guilty or anxious, and that meant I responded when I genuinely had something I wanted to share.
My ideal way of communication is communication when there is something important that needs to be communicated, not communication for communication sake.
Until next time. . .
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