six tips for texting

Texting is not my thing. I’m not sure it is even a verb. But I’m doing more of it, mostly because people I care about do it a lot.

Granted, it does have some benefits. It can save money (or at least bandwidth) and time. But it often costs something.

People use it to avoid difficult conversations, for example. Or any conversations at all. We can excuse these lapses, of course, but I’m not sure we can justify them. Many young people consider phone calls “rude and invasive.” These same people routinely text their friends while you are trying to talk to them.

But the real concern is that text messages often lack context. If you think of a verse or phrase from the Bible as a text message from God, for example, you may miss His meaning entirely by not considering its historical and literary context.

This is a problem because we often assume the recipient understands the context, and this is a dangerous assumption, even in wrong form writing. More so in text.

According to Katherine Rosman, a text message’s content is so condensed that it routinely fails, even more than email, to convey the writer’s tone and affect. The more we text, she says, the greater the opportunity for misunderstanding.

Acronyms are also a problem when texting people in different demographics than your own. If they have to look it up you saved yourself time but you haven’t saved them any. And this doesn’t even begin to account for the lack of nonverbals, which some experts say conveys as much as 90% of our meaning.

Obviously, for some messages, a text is OK: “B home in 10 min.” But for others, not so much. “Won’t b home 2nite.” Some messages require an explanation. And a tone of voice.

So here, IMO, are six tips for texting, from a reluctant user of the medium:

• Never substitute a text for a needed conversation, even an unpleasant one. Especially an unpleasant one.

• Don’t text a message that will require five more texts to explain. Email or call instead.

• Don’t put people in a group text that have not asked to or agreed to be in it. Just don’t. It is awkward and presumptuous.

• Don’t expect emoticons to adequately convey nonverbal meaning. They can help, but a smiley face is still just a smiley face.

• Don’t text people who don’t text back. Consider their texting tendencies and preferences. (I might be one of those people.)

• Don’t text while driving. We’ll miss you. Srsly.

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