Sometimes we fall into the habit of thinking life revolves around us—our individual thoughts, our feelings, our behaviors. Not so. The recent use of texting is sending us in a downward spiral as far as relationships goes, because we’re not becoming more socially adept, we’re becoming more narcissistic. Yes, we’re now connected to more people than ever before, but the “connection” is not there. We get into trouble when a majority of our time “connecting” to other people is not spent face-to-face. Our relationships go down the drain when we depend on social media as the platform for our dating and marriage relationships.
We’re in unchartered territory. The social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and YouTube aren’t helping us either. They are great ways to stay informed about what people are doing, but they don’t necessarily convey how they are doing. When we communicate verbal communication only makes up 3% of how we interpret what we are seeing/hearing. We begin navigating our life story from an increasingly lonely place—interpreting the output of messages someone input into a machine, and then using a machine to read the words. We lose the feelings and meanings behind the words. Let’s focus on some helpful guidelines for texting, so we can use this capability as a tool to enhance our relationships. While these tips are for dating and married relationships, they are also germane for the texts you send to other loved ones (people with whom you have an emotional attachment to such as best friends and family).
- Recognize text and instant messaging is NOT a substitute for face-to-face interaction.
While it saves time and lets us send information about ourselves to more people, it is not a replacement for spending time with someone in person.
- Use text and instant messaging as a last resort if there is anything emotional involved.
To put it bluntly, do not fight while texting. When we are upset and arguing we already tend to not “hear” the other person’s point of view. Texting amplifies this, and makes it worse, because our brains are stuck in fight or flight mode—so everything we text is subject to misinterpretation.
Men and women use communication for different reasons. Men typically communicate to solve problems. Often they do not respond to a situation, until they’ve figured out a solution. If you’re having a discussion with the opposite sex, and you are texting, it can create a lot of tension, because women naturally use more words (I think it around 600 words extra) a day then men. Translate this to texting, and women are going to text more content then men. Generally, women communicate to connect with others. Using texting to connect is NOT having a relationship. A lot of what women write may be read, and then disregarded, because if you’re a man you may not respond unless you can solve the issue.
- Use text and instant messaging to make date/time/location plans.
The only thing that cannot be misunderstood is when you set a time to meet up. This is because emotions are not involved, you’re relaying information. And you are using text messaging to convey information, not to have an entire conversation.
This is perhaps the only valid reason to use texting in a relationship. If you choose to use texting predominantly for this reason only, then you will save yourself much grief with whomever you’re dating or married.
- When in doubt about how your message will be understood, do NOT text!
If you doubt how someone will interpret what your write, and it involves personal things, then do not use texting to send the message. We often think up things to say on social media platforms to draw attention to ourselves. This does not translate to texting with people you care about, because they are already invested in you, and you do not need to bait or entice them to respond. If you do, then the relationship may have dysfunctional or co-dependent aspects that are not based on honest feedback and open communication. On social media sites to get people to click through, and find out more about what we’re doing or thinking, we often post things that are ambiguous and create curiosity by the reader/viewer. However, if you’re dealing with a situation or conversation with your partner that has emotions involved such as jealousy, anger, or betrayal involved…chances are you do NOT want to leave even more room open for interpretation.
The bottom line for using texting ethically, and so our relationships have a chance at survival is to use it to pass information that does not need context or have feelings involved that bring up trust issues. Use text messaging and social media to pass information, not to have entire conversations. Use it as a tool, not a crutch. And, if you question how someone may interpret what you wrote, then wait until you are in person. As a last resort you could use video chat, Skype, or a phone call—because face-to-face is always the best way to form and keep lasting, long-term relationships.