Avoid Texting So Much: Science Shows How It’s Psychologically Messing With You

Texting is one of the biggest forms of communication in today’s world.

From being able to send an important message without the lag time of a phone ringing or having to leave a voicemail, to sending passively funny statements and exchanging pictures and emojis, it’s become more than just a means of communication, but a multi-purposeful platform for self-expression. But is it entirely a good thing? Should we be speaking with one another more often instead? While many of us get excited over the customized ding that indicates a new message, what about the aching feeling of waiting for an answer that never comes? What about when you’re busy and respond quickly to a question instead of your usual vibrant, upbeat reply, and your friend asks if you’re okay because it seemed rude? And how about feeling obligated to respond to every text, every time, on time? It’s a lot of pressure to always be “on.” But it’s just texting. It can’t really be that detrimental to our wellbeing. Or can it? Many of us wholeheartedly love texting as our preferred form of fast and casual communication, but just like many other forms, it’s important to take a step back and see how it might be in your favor to put down your phone and pick up your head every now and again. Here are six reasons why: In everyday life, we rely on voice inflection, facial expressions, and body language to interact with people in a way that allows them to understand how we feel and what we mean.

These things are obviously not possible via texting. And while there are different forms, say the use of caps, exclamation points, and emojis, sometimes it’s the initial wording that can throw someone off and create a downward spiral. Bottom line, it is easy to misinterpret texting. As a woman, I can certainly vouch for the fact that men simply don’t send 10 emojis and a novel every single time they text me or respond to something I’ve said, whether it be a significant other or a friend. Men, you may wonder why women never seem interested in ending a texting conversation, or how they can go on forever with their girlfriends about anything and everything. Each gender values communication differently, having different significances. Sometimes they align, and sometimes they don’t. Ronald D. Smith, a communications professor at Buffalo State (SUNY), believes men communicate to convey information while women do so to create intimacy.

The problem is not getting what you put out. Women want to bond, while men want to exchange information, and if the communication is not aligned to the others’ needs, someone can get annoyed or even angry. It creates conflict where no conflict ought to be. Of course, this is a generalization, and doesn’t hold true for every man and every woman. Gender rules don’t always make sense, as people are individuals with unique personality traits first and foremost. But, should it feel relatable to you, perhaps this can serve as an awakening for ridding yourself of the unnecessary confusion surrounding your texting woes. Power is thought to be the ability to influence or direct the behavior of others. With texting, we give the power to someone else by waiting on them to respond to our text message. We are also given power by someone else to get back to them as well. How often have you forgotten to get back to someone and been accused of not caring or ignoring them? Perhaps you’ve done the same.

The false sense of power circulates for no reason at all. We get down on ourselves and others because of how and when we reach out or respond. Knowing you might not receive a text back creates this power struggle of who should stop the conversation first. Unlike hanging up the phone or walking away from someone, we can simply slip our phones into our back pockets and escape without anyone knowing it until enough time has passed that they eventually get it. This vulnerability disconnects us from the ability to politely begin and end a conversation, and to anticipate replies. You have the option of turning this feature on or off on an iPhone, and if you opt for it to be on, you’re allowing anyone who texts you to know when you’ve read it. Sounds nice for the other person, but it’s sort of a trap for you. If you have it off, the message remains as “delivered,” in which case you’re letting others know you may not get back to them for quite some time, or you might respond immediately. It’s just a guessing game.

The read receipt once again contributes to the false sense of power that texting creates. If it’s on and you don’t respond, you cause others to worry over why you chose not to get back to them. However, it also creates the need for the sender to immediately get a response if they’ve seen that you’ve read their message. So you forgot to, or chose not to, text someone back and then run into them somewhere and they ask you what happened. You may fear what will happen if you tell them the truth, so you lie and say you never received their message or haven’t looked at your phone. But it’s pretty obvious when a text hasn’t gone through. It’s also pretty apparent in today’s culture that most of us look at our phone at the very least periodically throughout the day.

The other person probably knows you’re lying, but having that conversation may create further conflict, and so they are forced to believe you and therefore lie to themselves. Perhaps if we practiced honesty we wouldn’t be nearly as offended as knowing we are lying or being lied to. While it’s so easy to be passively rude by not answering a message, it’s also exhausting to feel like you can’t quit. In real life, when somebody is done with the conversation, it ends with one of them walking away, but with texting, it’s always open-ended. Many of us don’t begin texting conversations with “Hello” anymore like we do on the phone or in person. Instead, we just get to the point, whether it be a question or a funny joke you want to relay.

The conversation can go on for hours throughout the day, with texts coming through periodically instead of back to back like verbal communication. How often do you say, “Bye” via text? Perhaps never. We are supposed to just get the hint when things are wrapping up, or just refuse to text anymore as a means of ending it. It’s interesting to think that we no longer have to miss a beat with other people because we can send a text on the sly even at work. It brings up the question: Are we ever really alone? A 2003 study on the benefits of being alone concluded that solitude is necessary for personal development, yet our friends live in our purses and our pockets. What would it be like to miss someone? To have no idea what they were doing? To have to fantasize? To have to focus on ourselves and only ourselves for prolonged periods of time? Most of us text. And we likely won’t stop because we like it. It’s okay to like it, but perhaps use this information to simply take a step back and appreciate the benefit of getting back to the basics for personal growth and deeper connections with others. .

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