dear friend/family member/colleague/or other person who has ever texted me,
i just finished aziz ansari’s fantastic book modern romance and am feeling both enlightened and horrible. enlightened because he brilliantly illuminates what it’s like to be a young adult in the world in 2016 and horrible because i’ve been blind to potential messages i’ve been sending simply by receiving your texts. while i knew that many of you might have expectations regarding texting etiquette, i had no idea that i was, very likely, triggering all sorts of assumptions given my haphazard way of using my phone.
to put it plainly, i was clueless that you might be making assumptions about your relative importance to me based upon the length of my responses and/or the time it takes me to respond at all.
i. was. clueless.
here’s the deal. i don’t always carry my phone. sometimes i leave it in my backpack unchecked for hours at a time. several days in a row, recently, i forgot it at home on the counter next to the coffee pot. while i remembered my coffee cup but not my phone when i left the house, it truly doesn’t mean that my coffee is more important to me than you are. i have not forgotten YOU. you matter to me. regardless of how long it takes me to respond or how short my response might be.
since i don’t check my phone when i’m with people or writing or walking or driving or eating or doing any number of things, when i do reference it i often have many (many many many many) more texts and voice mails than i can meaningfully respond to right away. in addition, as a person to whom communication matters a great deal, i tend to want to respond to all incoming messages with intention and meaning. it truly never occurred to me that the ratio of my words to yours or the lag time between them might communicate more loudly (or at least as loudly as) the words themselves.
now, however, i’m realizing that we may think very differently about that. you might prefer speed and carefully considered text length ratios over everything else. you might actually be feeling uncared for/disregarded/or (the worst ever) manipulated by my response time or text lengths. for that, i am sorry.
being aware of this has made me empathic in all kinds of new (and stretching) ways. now i understand more clearly why some of you respond to incoming texts even when we’re in the middle of a deep discussion, therapy session, walk in the park, or ordering our dinner. i get it now. i still may not love it but i get it. i also have increased empathy for those of you frustrated at my (or your grandmother’s, boss’, gardener’s, or whomever’s) lag and/or brevity in responding. we might not connect entirely on our philosophy about and engagement with communication via text but at least i understand the issues at play and the way in which the disconnect might play out.
so, thank you for being connected to me on this bizarre, beautiful, and bountiful journey that is life in 2016. i’m glad, actually, that we have texting as a way of communicating and want to use it effectively. when my version of “effectively” and yours don’t match and you begin to wonder what i’m thinking, where i’ve gone, or what i mean, please ask. i’d rather speak truth than have you wonder and truth is that you matter a lot but that my phone doesn’t as much. as a result, i’m likely holding you in my thoughts far more than holding my phone in my hands. and, when you can’t (or don’t) ask, read this as my default response whenever you need:
thank you for your text. i’m glad you reached out. it may take me a while to reach back simply because of my weird relationship with my phone and the pace at which my life is moving these days. please know that you and this message matter to me. if you need an answer (beyond this) more quickly than you receive one, please please reach back out and tell me that. otherwise, assume that i am holding you in light and love and hoping for you tangible reminders of your immense value and that i will respond in kind in time.
it may not be quippy, short, or clever but it’s my truest intention and one i hope you’ll receive and trust.
you matter (to me and to the world). please know that to your core.
a quick p.s. to everyone (even those who never, ever text me):
i think this disconnect in communication styles, expectations, and preferences might be happening a lot out there and i want to help us all be informed about this. awareness and open communication seems better than a whole lot of folks sitting around feeling frustrated at either too quick or too slow response times or too many or too few words. for this reason, why not suspend your assumptions when someone doesn’t respond or when someone you are with responds to the texts of others in your presence? why not talk face to face (or at least voice to voice) before assuming that you are being played or ignored? if you are a person who doesn’t stay close to your phone why not let those who text you know this? when beginning a texting relationship with someone it might be worth addressing how you each use (or don’t use) your devices to prevent misunderstanding. it may seem laborious but i believe it’s less so than laboring under false assumptions. communication is difficult regardless of how it is dispensed. working to make it clearer and better is always worth work in my mind. how about yours?