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Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: Texting, Or How to Cause Trouble in Your Life with A Cell Phone

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Texting, Or How to Cause Trouble in Your Life with A Cell Phone

Call me old fashioned. But I really think we have gone beyond reasonable usage of the cell phone. I really do understand the convenience of texting. I understand the little jolt of joy and intrigue when the chime rings, or the phone vibrates. I know that opening up the message from wherever you might be (in class, at work, the movies, your therapist's office), is something akin to having someone pass you a note secretly behind the teacher's back....but I think we have gone too far.

While I am all for efficiency in communication, I can tell you, that from where I sit, in my therapist's chair, I bear witness to any number of relationship troubles that in no small way can be credited to the hazards of texting.

So what, pray tell, does texting have to do with mental health. Consider this: Jane Doe meets John Dude at an office party. He works on the other side of the building, but has seen her a few times in the parking lot. After talking for a few minutes, Jane has to leave, to meet her boyfriend, which she tells John straight out. But John says he knows her boyfriend from high school and he'd like to meet up with them sometime, so Jane gives him her number. A few days later, John texts Jane, "Would you like to hang out sometime?" To which Jane texts him back, "ok."
This begins an innocent exchange of words which is really no big deal. In fact, Jane told her boyfriend about John, who said John was an okay guy, but he really did not care to see him again. But by now Jane has been sort of liking the friendly messages that John has been continuing to send.
Fast forward several months later, when Jane's phone jingles while she is hanging with her boyfriend. Who's that? he wants to know. "No one really. That John guy."

"Why is he texting you? Do you talk to him"

"No, he just wants to hang out sometime with us."

"Let me see the phone."

"Why? Its no big deal."

"So let me see the phone."

"What, you don't trust me?"

Okay, you know where I am headed. Fights, phone spying. It can get worse. And with troubled relationships comes compromised mental and emotional wellness. And really, that's only one scenario. The real mess of texting comes when couples, friends, parents, kids, start communication by text and something, sometimes subtle, gets lost in the translation. There is something that gets misread, misinterpreted, misunderstood, or just missed. And then feelings get hurt, ideas get started and weird stuff happens. And folks begin to get used to typing brief, or sometimes lengthy, exchanges, going throughout the day (and night too), that more often than not, cause more upset than they resolve. Frustrating at best, and damaging at worst.

Consider this text: (from one best friend to another) "Hey K, Joey said he doesn't like it when you say love ya chickie to me all the time. It bugs him. Go figure, but he's my guy, so I'm just asking you to not say it so much. You know I luv ya. Know you understand. thanx. Talk ltr. R."

So maybe some would folks would just say, sure, cool, no problem. But the recipient of this text was really hurt. Its a small example, but it highlights the fact that texting has become, in lots of cases, a substitute for a real conversation. A way to check list something or someone, and to connect without connecting.

I certainly know that talking can go south as well, but somehow, like bullets, a bad text can start a war. Or at least a battle, and I am thinking we may do well to pay attention to how and in what way we use it. At least with conversations one can try to deal in the moment, with whatever feeling comes up. When people let off on a text they are sending an arrows through the phone. And people save those arrows, and reread them again and again and again. They stick.

I will say this: words in any form are precious and carry weight. We have a difficult enough time getting things right when we speak person to person. We'd best text carefully, I think, and save the big stuff for real time talk., And perhaps use caution when starting (even accidentally) a texting relationship with "no one."
Stay tuned for the trouble with email!


Lisa said...

I used to never text, mainly because it wasn't part of my plan and my phone wasn't really set up for easy usage. Then I got a new phone and managed to tick my dad off so much with the high bills that he just decided to put us all on free data. Yikes. The feeling of being connected to anyone I want at any time is very powerful. It's comforting knowing I can connect with anyone I want with just a few button taps. The convenience of life!

At the same time, it is a bad thing. I rarely use the phone to talk to people anymore, with the exception of my family and best friends. I broke up with a guy I was dating VIA instant message. I got dumped VIA facebook. The face to face contact is going wayside to convenience and people's cowardess. I don't fancy there to be a cure to that!

Anonymous said...

OK. Being that I am a former telecom agent I shoudl be the first one vouching for texting and advertising for th great deals that the woreless telecom world offers. However, the ethical delemma that you raise, Melissa, is so important. Take two steps back. Start with the social issue. Take for instance a night out with friends. You are sitting at dinner with friends and all present are waiting for the waitor to bring out the order...sounds familiar? So all four are around the table, not looking at eachother, not communicating or talking (perhaps they forgot the purpose of the "date" altogether. You are all sitting and looking at your laps: NO, not meditating, but texting. OH! you forgot tonight is girl's night? Well, one says that she needs to constantly keep her boyfriend updated. Or another is texting her mom that she will be home late...there always is an excuse to be available to the world whenever. Never can a few people sit around and talk to eachother without some electronic device interrupting the quiet.

Interestingly, I am an adult, actually completing my second degree and I only got a cell phone two years ago, when I started commuting to work. When I got the phone, I ellimnated all availibility for texting. No one can text me adn I cant text out. I rarely pick up my phone in the presence of others. For instance, I was at my office the other day, and I was sitting at an associate's desk because I needed to get something from the files there. Another associate's wife was in talking to me as I worked, and my cell phone, which was on my desk began to ring. SHe said to me, "why dont you pick up your phone?" When I responded that I had physical company to give attention to she was appalled to hear that response. In fact, I think that she felt good.

Have you ever heard the cliche that technology is a double edged sword? Well it really is. Forget the actual act of texting...forget the croken relationships from texting, which are all VALID concerns. I believe that if we take a few steps back and look at the beuty in mankind and remember to treat of all God's living creations (who are alive and kicking) with respect when in their presence, that can be a first step to better communication. This is one of the most important parts of a relationship. I think it is so much more meaningful to tell someone to have a great day than to tect them from the next room, or even from a mile away, or fifteen miles, "hv a gr8 dy, xoxo, me." Shrt hnd is 4 skewl nt 4 bffs who r looking 4 a rl friendship & a good rlationshp...its imp 4 e/o 2 JK, no LOL...THE REAL THING...

Anonymous said...

OMG! I am rereading my last comment and I want to publically apologize all of the spelling and grammar errors. I, myself even cringed upon reading it...I guess that is what one can expect from a twenty first century student...I can’t blame it on the TEXTING!!

Melissa Groman, LCSW said...

When I responded that I had physical company to give attention to she was appalled to hear that response. In fact, I think that she felt good.

ST! Yes and Yes! And thanks for stopping by! No need to worry about spelling and gram errors...glad for your thougthts! And I agree its a new world where everyone is under the table on the phone....

Melissa Groman, LCSW said...

yes, def. convenient! but I have seen lots of interetesting (and not always pleasant) situations come about because of eletronic communication...I am still a believer in face to face whenever possible!


christina said...

Great post! Love your blog. Teens can send a witty response back to these abusive texters at