Texting will be something our kids grow up thinking is the normal mode of communication. They won’t understand that once upon a time, we had to use tools like pen and paper to write notes to our crushes in class, or AOL instant messenger to stay connected over the Internet (and most likely through dial-up if it was pre-2004). Though it’s become something of convenience these days, I would bet it’s also destroyed plenty of relationships and caused a bit of turmoil in other areas of people’s lives just for the simple fact of how easy it is to send a few words so quickly over a text rather than calling.
When my uncle died, my cousin sent a text to tell my mom.
When Britney Spears wanted to end her marriage, she sent a text to let K-Fed know the jig was up.
When people want to call off work, most can just text their bosses some excuse rather than calling and explaining.
It takes the pressure off so many difficult conversations, so I can see why people opt to take this “easy way” out. I’m guilty of doing it, too. When I’m angry, I have definitely run my angry fingers across that phone keyboard numerous times to express my feelings. But is it really the best way to handle things?
I have come to find out that, no, it’s not.
In my quest to improve my character, I’ve learned that I don’t want to be a hypocrite, so if I don’t want people to be rude through text or to go to text to take up serious situations with me then I shouldn’t do the same. So I’m working on those things, and I’m learning tone is super important and I pay more attention to how I word things or how things sound when I’m sending them off, but there’s always the risk that how I think a message sounds to me is now how it will sound to the receiving party.
Things are easy to misinterpret…
Things that affect tone could be:
- choice of words
- length of text
- number of unanswered texts sent before other person replies
Basically, the same things you were taught in school in English class (hopefully you paid attention, but most of you probably didn’t) come into play in texts because tone comes across in so many ways that you have to be careful! Writing is one of my biggest strengths and I still get caught up making mistakes and getting into sticky situations because a text is different than an essay and so much can be said or conveyed in just a short amount of time.
I know it’s ridiculously easy for a simple conversation to go from laid back to “oh, no, they didn’t” really quickly, but I’ve found that if I just take a few moments to think about what I’m about to say, and if it really NEEDS to be said, then it can save a lot of trouble and conflict in the long run. Furthermore, if it’s something that I think ought to be said, I then determine if it has to be said right then and there or if it can wait, and if it should be done in person. Often, anger, or annoyance, gets the best of us and a text makes it easy to fire away things that should be kept to ourselves.
The Bible says: Whoever guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble (Proverbs 21:23).
These are words to live by in our digital age, where a 10-minute break at the office could be futile territory for an employee who’s having a bad day to yell at someone that’s writing about the president on Twitter or for a person to lash out at a family member who’s burned their last “free pass” for being rude in a group message. But it’d be better to have a little self-control.
Maybe that person deserves it, sure, but God is the one responsible for doling out justice, not us. And people that are always right never get the glory they think they’re going to get.
When is the last time you were right in an argument and someone looked at you and responded with, “Oh, thanks, Kim, that was some insightful perspective you offered, and I truly apologize for my dumb opinion on the matter and for being so judgmental originally!”
Never. Because that’s not how life works, and that’s not how people operate.
So my advice is simple. Take your time when you text, and don’t make it your lifeline. Remember you don’t have to limit your communication to only texting. I like sending notes via mail. I call when what I want to convey might end up being a 3-part text and I worry it might get confusing. I wait to talk in person when I feel like the person on the other end misinterpreted what I said but may not want to discuss over the phone either. And I sometimes don’t say anything at all when I’m too hurt or irritated to figure out what the best way to handle something is. Because that’s okay! Praying and waiting is okay. You don’t have to make a decision on a social situation immediately. The pressure of thinking you have to is what sometimes hurries us into saying words we later regret or that we could have phrased better, in hindsight.
I’ve made the mistake plenty of times. Sometimes I totally stand by the feeling I was having when I sent a message because the person on the other end was in the wrong but I felt guilty about not acting the way God would have wanted me to: out of love.
I believe it’s acceptable to feel pain and hurt and justifiably disrespected but two wrongs don’t make a right and a virtual yelling match over text, even a passive aggressive “K” is not cool and quite frankly immature, so I put forth the extra effort into evaluating my feelings, the situation, how the other person might be feeling and where they’re coming from, and then ask myself how my actions will best represent God before doing anything (if anything).
Sometimes letting the other person’s text sit is enough.
No tone needed because no reply needed. Silence says so much.