We carry our phones everywhere. Drive down any city block, and you’ll encounter someone walking across the street who has forgotten to even look to see if a car is approaching as they stare at the phone their fingers tapping or swiping at a fast rate.
Our social connections are more digital than personal during our workdays, when we wake up in the morning, and even when we go to sleep at night. Oftentimes we’re checking our phones at a rate of every few minutes.
With this constant contact we feel connected to our friends and family. We are checking in with one another, sharing photos of our lives, and sharing our stories from the day.
It can be a source of finding love through an online app, or finding a community interested in the same activity. In itself it’s an incredible tool.
Then there’s the flip side. A dark side, where anyone can reach out at any moment in our day, and decide to verbally abuse, create a fight, or tell you what you’ve done wrong.
On one given week, a friend called me to say that a woman he had met through a dance studio had been reaching out to him for about a month. He didn’t want to offend her by not responding and so he casually engaged. A few days passed and he realized that her constant texting was breaking into his day.
Each time he felt guilt for not responding. She was acting as if they had a much closer relationship than they did, writing to him early in the day just to say good morning.
Trying to be fair, he reached out and took responsibility, explaining that he wasn’t looking for friendship and definitely not a relationship. He tried to do it in a gentle and honest way, and she seemed to respond.
The next day, as he was preparing for his evening after a productive, feel good day, the chime on his phone went off three times. A long and angry text filled his screen. The woman called him a liar, a broken mess, and told him straight out that he was denying what was between them.
The following day, a female friend reached out to me with a screen shot of a text message. Her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend had written to her to speak her mind about why they should be friends. My friend, still heartbroken and dealing with the break up, now was dealing with this woman’s emotions in the middle of her work day. Instead of being able to give her full attention to her research her heart was churning with the old hurt, while this woman demanded a response.
The same day, I was out running errands, while utilizing my phone to stay in constant contact with a graphic designer. It had been a good day, and I was in a creative and productive mode.
A text notification popped up. A new friend was bored at work and wanted attention. Within a few texts, he started changing his verbiage from friendly to combative. I realized he was angry with me because I’d said no to making plans.
I stated that I wouldn’t text about a serious subject, and if he wished to talk, we could have a phone conversation when I finished working. He continued to engage, and I told him I was ending the text conversation. As I tried to communicate with my graphic designer, insulting texts continued to pop up on my screen.
On Facebook each and every day you can see the long stream of comments that berate others for political views. Opinions are everywhere and it seems people feel they have the right to speak their mind or in current times, text their mind.
Just a few decades back, if you wanted to have a fight with someone, or even tell someone how you felt, you had to pick up the phone and speak. Oftentimes you spent hours thinking over what you would say, how the other person would respond, and how you wanted the conversations to resolve.
If you were to write to someone it was in email form and time was spent as you re-read your emotions in a long written out format.
In the age of texting as communication, anyone, anywhere can bang out a text in moments, grammar be damned, and fling accusations and demands. Then in an instant, those hurtful words are flashing on our screens as we drive, work, hang out with friends, or even try to take a picture on vacation.
The sanctity of thinking about how we speak to one another, the courage it takes to have an adult conversation in person or over the phone with our true emotions splayed out and raw has been exchanged for, I need instant gratification of putting this hurt on you because I feel neglected, unloved, unwanted, scared, etc.
This form of communicating slows the progress of our goals, it ruins our days, it demands our heart’s attention and throw us off of even our best moods. In that one second of the flash of a text, a series of hormones and physical reactions kick us into emotional distress.
There’s been much attention paid to bullying on the internet, but oftentimes, we don’t think about how much hurt we entail by looking up at that notification while someone breaks into our personal world.
The flip side, when we get constant reactions from people that are loving, or funny, or filled with friendship, our self-worth also becomes attached to those little highs we receive, making us that more vulnerable to the angry or upset text messaging.
So what can you do when that text message or comment comes through undoing your emotions for the day?
Here are five steps to protect yourself:
- Give a person one chance to stop and pick up the phone. If something needs to be resolved and you’re close to them don’t allow the texting conversation to continue.
- If the person doesn’t stop, temporarily block their number. You can always unblock them at a later time. This will stop them from being able to throw their emotions at you during inappropriate times. Messenger also has a blocking ability.
- Turn off notifications and only check your messages once or twice per day if you don’t have to worry about logistical plans (which is what text is best utilized for).
- Demand from people who are important to you to never send important conversations by text. Instead, make it a rule that everyone understands that you don’t engage in anything important over text.
We may not believe that texting is anything but a practical part of our lives, but in truth, it’s an intrusive behavior. Not only can these bad emotions be thrown at us at any unsuspecting time, as if a person were yelling insults to us on the street, but also, when we engage in texting while we are with other people, we then limit the time we spend with one another.
In truth, the less time you spend texting, the better your life will become. We get one life, one body, one playground earth to explore. The last thing anyone should have to do is waste a moment on the childish behavior of a temper tantrum text.