Last night one of my little sisters sent multiple text messages and in one asked, “How ya’ been?” I responded to other messages but not to that one. She then texted me again to ask why. Now, there are two types of messages that I put in my pet peeves category:
1) Hi. Hey! What’s up? Yo’!
Please don’t just send me a two letter text. If you are thinking about me then say so. If you miss me and my wonderful presence then share that. If you would like to talk soon then tell me; and
2)How are you?
Asking how I am doing via text unless it’s specifically related to an experience I am going through often feels like we are going through the motions of yet another social ritual that has little to do with expressing authentic care for another person. Some think of it as a polite courtesy. I think of it as a waste of my energy. Why not just wish the person well or send them blessings?
Then there’s the pressure of my right-brain, free-spirit condensing my response to fit inside a text messages. On some days that feels like prison to me. My mom think it’s quirky, my cousin says I’m “special” and my ex- says it’s just plain weird. Call it whatever you want, but if you want to know how I am doing either call me or send an email and be prepared for an authentic response.
These scenarios got me to thinking about text etiquette, manners and what makes sense nowadays. I know I am not the typical communicator and one might even say my expectations are too high, but I wanted to share them nonetheless. I’m sure there are few of you that might be pondering the same things. So here goes a few more text topics when it comes to etiquette:
- It’s important to know when to text versus when to email or when to call. If you find yourself writing more than a few messages and each one is long, then you should probably go to email. If the subject matter is dealing with an emotional issue or concern and you really want a reply, put your big girl pants on and call.
- If you are seeking a response within a certain time frame then you should probably call the other person and if it is urgent, state that in the text and let the person know you will call shortly if you don’t hear back.
- Do not send a text at 4 in the morning, 5 in the morning or even 6 am. Unless we are meeting each other for an early breakfast meeting and you need to cancel or you were supposed to meet me at the airport 10 minutes ago, it’s just not appropriate. Send an email or wait until calling hours.
- Don’t initiate a text dialogue if you do not have time to reply.
- Remember that you don’t know when a person will read or receive your message. You have no right to be offended if the reply takes a while. Sometimes messages don’t go through. Sometimes messages come while a person is driving or walking in 10 degree weather. Sometimes the person you texted is busy-cooking, cleaning, changing a diaper...
- If I just sent you a text message with facts or to ask a quick question, that text is not a request for you to call me right this moment. Do not assume that the sender is available to talk to you or wants to talk to you and have a full conversation. The exception might be that you are walking or driving and need to relay the info verbally.
- If we haven’t talked in a while sign your name at the end of your message. People change phones, phones get stolen, phones crash. Don’t make up stories about your number being deleted and your being de-friended. (Yes, this has happened with my grown-up friends. Bless their hearts.)
- Avoid texting sad news. I remember being backstage putting on lip gloss and preparing to head to the podium to speak when my mom sent a text about my favorite great aunt’s death. Bless her heart. She wanted me to know, but it would have been better to find out after my speech.
- Unless you are in a long, boring meeting where you cannot talk or on the Quiet Car on Amtrak, please don’t expect a 30 minute text conversation. I have a friend who has a text limit. He says that if he receives more than 4 text messages you need to call him because ‘ain’t nobody got time for that’. Texting requires attention, time, energy and focus.
- If we are in person and I am talking to you, please do not text on your phone without acknowledging that I was just talking to you. Have the courtesy to excuse yourself from the conversation or don’t be surprised if I step away.
- Oh, and those annoying holiday texts and holiday group messages! Last month an old friend wondered why I had not responded to her Happy Thanksgiving message. She and I haven’t socialized in so long that she forgot that her friend is a truth-seeking, non-traditionalist who has never gone along with the crowd.
First, I don’t believe that generic “Happy ___________” or “Merry ____________” messages deserve a reply. There’s no effort in that kind of sharing. Tell me what you are thankful for, give me something that I can feel.
Then second, I get a lot of text messages on the big holidays and don’t care to expend energy typing replies. It’s my phone and my time, I can do with it what I please.
Finally, I don’t know about you, but I find the roots of this holiday to be quite disturbing. I have yet to reconcile the history of feasting to celebrate the shedding of Native American blood. I do however, love that in our culture of individualism that there is a day set aside to focus on gratitude, but I am still seeking peace around this particular holiday.
I know, I know most people mean well, but kindness and good intention don’t trump basic manners, consideration and common sense. Be mindful, be thoughtful and text with care.