Its mixed messages make emotions flare and may even keep you from building authentic bonds
It’s a text-heavy world. How many times have you heard the phrase “just send me a text” or “I’ll text you later”? Parents text their children when they are as close as another room in the home. Singles eschew first dates and instead determine whether or not to pursue romantic relationships through a series of texted “conversations” as opposed to real-life interactions. Even busy husbands and wives or those in secure long term relationships frequently function in large part by corresponding via text.
And while this form of communication is fast, extremely popular, and even advantageous at times, the repercussions of this type of interaction can also be extremely negative.
Quite simply, texting sends mixed messages that can not only cause misunderstandings, but also be a catalyst for unfounded fear, anger, or insecurity.
Punctuation and text length can provoke miscommunications and inaccurate inferences
Let’s say you ask your potential “other” if he or she can get together for a drink after work. They respond with “no” or “can’t.” The negative response itself causes your heart to plummet, but what’s worse is the one-word answer. It seems like a slap in the face. Why were they so blunt, so short-spoken? Surely if they cared, they would follow up with a reason, right? This is where insecurity sets in, followed by a slow and simmering anger.
The innocent truth?
Your “other” was in traffic or at a business meaning. Somewhere where texting a lengthy response was either dangerous or impossible.
Yet, subconsciously, the red flags have been raised, and even when you find out the harmless and innocent truth, it’s hard to put those damn flags down. Because you have already been wounded by the response, and it’s hard for the heart to forget.
A short response is not the only unintended “wound” inflicted by texting. There are countless others. A text of all capital letters taken as anger when it was meant to convey excitement. A question mark at the end of a statement instead of a period, or a period instead of an exclamation mark. The list goes on and on.
When we receive texts, the truth is that we have no facial or situational “background” from which to draw conclusions. And as the human mind is much more likely to embrace negative assumptions than consider other possibilities, we often decide the worst-case scenario must be the true one.
“Ghosting” or being “left on read”
Oftentimes, what’s worse than a short and to the point text is no response at all.
Whether you at the beginning of a relationship or even in a long, seemingly secure relationship, the mind starts thrumming with possible negative causes.
You may think things such as “Is this a sign he or she is not interested in me?” or “How dare he or she not at least show the courtesy of responding to my text!” You may wonder if the recipient of your text has been hurt physically. You may search your mind for reasons he or she may be mad at you. What, you wonder, did you do to offend him or her or make them lose attraction?
Again, feelings of insecurity, panic, or rage flow through your veins.
Thought Catalog’s article “The 5 Most Misconstrued Texts By People in a Relationship” makes light of the situation by describing the things that may go through a person’s mind when his or her text is unanswered.
They describe an unspoken message as it may be inferred by a person whose text was “left hanging” and where the injured and “slighted” person “hears”
the following message implicit in a lover as: “Listen, I can’t use my phone right now because I’m having sex with other people and doing intravenous drugs with people that have diseases. Once I pay this girl and finish my crystal meth, I’ll hit you up.”
And while it may be a bit humorous to read, the truth is our thoughts may run along this gamut (though a bit less hyperbolic). And when it happens to us, it is most certainly not funny.
But the real truth of an unanswered text is usually less offensive.
Your partner or love interest may have left his or her phone at his or her desk, in the car, or even at his or her apartment or home for example.
And as bad as a person feels when their text is not being responded to, the emotions flare even more dangerously out of control when one has a phone app or uses a social media site that allows he or she to see that the sent message has been read but not responded to. This situation has even been given the name of “ghosting” or being “left on read.”
Again, maybe the silent “reader” of the text may be in a position at their job where they only have the time or opportunity to see the text but cannot text back. Maybe they are afraid of being seen punching away on their phone when they are supposed to be giving their undivided attention to their boss.
Or they may start to respond to the read email but be called away due to some personal or professional emergency.
The list of reasons why they may not respond is lengthy.
And yes, it could indicate a lack of interest or a subtle hint that they are not as “into” you as you think. But before you start worrying or shooting off obscenities about how insensitive they are, talk to them on the phone. Or better yet, see them in person.
Their face to face explanation can provide the visual and auditory clues that can either reassure or confirm your unpleasant suspicions.
Maybe you confront them and they say that they were busy at work and you notice the signs that tell you otherwise; averted eyes, physical distance or even excuses that let you know they are trying to find a quick way to escape the room (and you) while having the conversation.
Maybe instead they look into your eyes, apologize for their lack of response, pull you in for a hug, and remind you that you are special to them.
The unwritten text is simply not enough information for you to buy a ticket to the “Losers in Love Convention” or to gather your romantic interest’s belongings and set them on fire in a steaming mound outside your doorstep.
The bottom line:
Texting has its benefits, but be careful about making it your sole indicator of a partner’s feelings or personality. We as humans need more solid information, usually given by the senses of sight and sound to make more valid assumptions.
Ph.D. Zach Carter discusses this phenomenon in an article in Psychology Today entitled “Are You Hiding Behind Your Texts?” He states that “where there lack voice inflections and tonality variations in phone call conversations and, facial emotions, body proximity, and an endless array of other nonverbals during in-person discussions, a text message is forced to carry the load of the entire human message being sent.” He goes on to state the obvious, which is that is an “impossible goal” for the text.
So, hold the judgments until you call the person or have a face to face. It may save your feelings and even your relationship. On the other hand, it may end it. But isn’t knowing the truth better than wondering?
We Generation X’ers may have a lot to learn about your new techno-savvy world, but perhaps you can learn a bit or two from us. Here the lesson is simple: faces, vocal inflections, and body language are “worth a thousand words” but a text is not.
When texting, read and respond with caution. The human soul cannot be bared by a quickly typed message. Phone calls and face to face interaction are better indicators of the truths or deceptions of others. At least, as your modern technological savvy world affords, use Facetime. It’s certainly better than am ambiguous text.