• Peggy Pepper

Texting, Texting...What Happened to Talking?

OK. I admit it. I've fallen into a vat of techno-poopie. Not exactly sure when I crossed over from talking to people on the phone with actual words coming out of my mouth.....to now, where the words, as few as possible, are coming out of the end of my fingers via text. But I have.

I realized recently, that I actually have started to dread talking to ANYONE on the phone. WHAT has happened?

Texting has seduced us into thinking this gets things done easier and faster. The TO-DO box gets a check mark. And, the added bonus is that we don't actually have to "deal" with real, live people, who might slow us down with THEIR own comments or questions.

Is this what we are calling "SOCIAL" these days?

Ultimately, I believe it exacerbates MISSED communications and sends us into a state of "wondering what they meant by that" more often. It opens the door for unnecessary hurt feelings too, when we assume the sender's attitude, yet have no clue. One friend, who can tend to take the negative route in life, actually texted me after I texted her information about a meeting she had missed, "I would appreciate it if you wouldn't text me in that tone of voice." Huh? I was just "FYI-ing" her. Just maybe she was actually upset with HERSELF for forgetting the meeting and she was reading my text with her own inner blow torch. This slope can get slippery so quickly.

I’ve always wished for “Smell-O-Vision for television…..Now, I’d like “tone-of-voice” for texting, too.

We think of texting as the fastest, most efficient way to keep that daily ball rolling, right? But in reality, how many times have we had to go back and forth, forth and back, to get a simple message straight, or the directions clarified, or those "spell check" changes that magically appeared later...changed back to what we typed in the first place? So often, as I’m typing, it changes what I’ve just entered, right in front of me, like it’s thinking for me! Some of you may remember 2001: A Space Odyssey where HAL, the computer, took over the world? Some days, the things HAL wants ME to say instead. Ugh.

It reminds me of the time I sent a lengthy text to a newly hired landscape contractor. I was going through several scenarios "sharing my list" and asking him to "compare his list with my list". Every place the word "list" was typed (I SAW IT TYPED CORRECTLY), it was changed to "lust". On the run, I didn't proof read, so out it went. The landscaper texted back...."Sorry, but I'm gay."

So, does texting actually speed up decisions and information, or does it heighten our anxiety? Fry. Oh. My.

I miss the genteel civility of thank you notes. "Thank You’s", if you get one at all, appear more often these days in two lines of text or less. It can make you feel more "blown off" than appreciated. I remember the days of my “correct” mother standing over me to oversee the "first draft" of the thank you to my aunt and uncle, who, every Christmas, ceremoniously gifted me with two pairs of cotton-double-seated under panties with the little eyelet lace on the legs. Their gift-wrapped visit was always agonizing. But that thank-you note had to go out within a week of the unveiling. After her approval, with painstaking penmanship, it was transferred to the note paper we had carefully selected to go with the matching envelope and special Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch Christmas stamps . It was a total pain then, but I admit to feeling a bit wistful about the right-thing-to-do ritual of the hand-written "thank you".

Here's another thing!

If someone sends a text, then the responsibility for "getting the text" is now on the intended recipient. We are

off the hook as the sender. When someone doesn't respond almost immediately, we can get a little testy about that too, right? Admit it. You expect a quick response to your texts. Another guilty-as-charged admission: Over the weekend, my husband and I both sent a dinner invite to some new people in our community. My husband texted the husband. I emailed the wife. We called ourselves covering our communications bases. After our multi-message went out, 24 hours went by. Then, 36. Then, a full 48 hours with no response. WOW. What WAS the deal? Still, did we actually consider CALLING & TALKING? NO.

Well, the deal was...they were busy...LIVING. They were hiking and cooking out and laughing with their grand kids who were in for the holiday weekend. Checking their phones and computers took a back seat. Whodda thunk?

When they realized it had been going on two+ days without responding to us, they texted their apologies. Of course, they did. Because, now, that's what "socially conscious" people do.


Has our way of "being in touch" lost the heart of humanity we crave most right now?

So, here are three simple ways we really CAN be in touch with one another. No need to throw the texting baby out with the techno bath water, but being in REAL touch would feel so much better. It might feel a little awkward right now since we have lulled ourselves into what seems easiest. I just think much of what we deem easiest is actually resulting in some long days of feeling more lonely than ever.

These are things I am trying, too…I don’t want to complain about something I am not willing to make an effort to change.

1. Declare a day, maybe one morning each week, to check in with friends and family you have not heard from in a while. Call with your own voice. Prepare for the shock of someone actually answering! “HOW ARE YOU?” is a great way to start. “I just wanted to hear your voice. It’s been too long.” The truth and the tenderness will create a real connection, even if its for a few minutes.

2. Declare a TECH—NO time with your spouse, family, the ones you live with. Be prepared for the complaining

and have a subject ready to talk about. OR watch a TED TALK together. Then. Turn OFF the TV. And talk about the TED TALK. Get to know one another again. Isn’t it telling us something that this could feel painful?

3. Declare your appreciations. Go to the gift store and find some note paper or a card that you love. That, in itself, could brighten your day. Find the snail mail address of someone who deserves your thanks for even the smallest thing. By the way, did you know that writing in cursive is actually good for your brain? Research has shown that it connects both hemispheres and creates better cognitive function in a way that even printing or becoming mesmerized by our devices will never do. What will be good for you will be even “gooder” for the recipient of your thoughtfulness.

Texting will never replace talking. It cannot compete with eye contact. It won’t replace a hug or create a conversation among friends. It wasn’t meant to become our way of relating and making a real connection with one another. It’s a tool. We get to decide how much power to give it.


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