Managing Textpectations

By Tuesday, June 12, 2012 7 0

I feel a little defensive here, so please bear with me. It’s not that I’m antisocial – no, no, I love interacting with people. And it’s not that I’m a Luddite. I love the internet, for example: it’s made this blog possible, which is in the six figures on number of views. Please know, too, that I was a fairly early adopter of cell phones back in 1998. I embrace technology when it serves my purposes. My purposes just don’t square with stopping what I’m doing, squinting at my phone screen to read a stream of little messages, or using my thumbs to write back.

I’m a critical consumer, including of textpectations. I pick and choose what goods and services to use, rather than automatically buying or doing what’s available. I’ve paid hundreds of dollars less on my cell phone bill over the years because I opt out of texting.  Does a product or service fill a true need? Make me happier? Improve my quality of life? I’m intentional, and I’m not easily seduced by gadgets in general. My life is already full of information, overfull, actually. The additional data-flow that texting would bring in would dizzy me, complicate my life, and distract me from what I love the most.

I’ll admit I’m missing out on a few benefits that texting could bring me. Texting clearly excels at imparting quick snips of truly-needed information, such as last-minute changes to plans. If a group of folks need the same information quickly, I can see texting them all at once is highly efficient. However, I recently left my husband a quick voicemail to update him on something. It was several sentences, and done in fifteen seconds. “It would have taken me five minutes to have texted all that,” my carpool partner groaned. I think people sometimes cave in to textpectations when other mediums — maybe including a peaceful silence – would work better.

I fear that people would have crushing textpectations of me if I opened my door to texting. Folks might think I truly need to know that they are now walking into Trader Joe’s, or choosing the bran muffins over the blueberry muffins, or ogling the person ahead of them in the checkout line. I’d get copied on group text-messages and be expected to read them, when I’m already a little notorious for not opening all my emails. So, it seems extreme, but I opt out of any textpectations at all. And yes, I know that I couldn’t get away with this if I had teenagers.

I try to be present to the people I’m physically with in a given moment, not to mention other species in the mix like bees and flowers and dogs. Also, I love to be physically active. Staring at my cell-screen when I already rue how much time I spend on the computer would make me more sedentary, and move me backwards on physical activity.

I know a great many people see texting differently, though. I’m open to hearing in comments about how you manage textpectations, or how texting improves your quality of life, or other reasons I should reconsider this.

photo courtesy of Dan Zen

7 Comments
  • Colleen
    June 12, 2012

    I don’t think you need to reconsider your decision about texting just yet, but I do think it can be useful in the midst of active activities (as long as it doesn’t take up too much time).
    For example, yesterday, around 4 pm, I went for a beautiful hike off of our rural property. Earlier in the day, we discovered Belle, one of our dogs, was missing. She’d apparently slipped under the yard fence midday. While I was out hiking, she appeared and joyously bounded toward me, deciding to follow me on the hike. My husband was at home working, so I texted him that she had ‘found’ me, plus a picture of her drinking from a stream. It was a nice way to let him know all was well without calling him during his workday, when he might be in a phone meeting or otherwise occupied.
    Personally, I try to limit texts to when I think a call might be intrusive. And it depends on the person I’m texting, too. It’s hard when others text you and you feel the need to respond, so I only do it if I think it’s important enough AND better than interrupting someone during the workday. It’s also nice if you’re in a too-noisy-to-call environment and need to get someone a little message.

    • Alison Wiley
      June 12, 2012

      Colleen, Your texting sounds measured and intentional, for sure. Interesting how it can be both non-intrusive, as in not interrupting your husband’s work — but also intrusive, in that you mention it’s hard when others text you and you feel the need to respond. It seems that technology is often paradoxical like that.

      It sounds just like Belle to escape (she is ever the flight risk) — and then joyously invite herself along on your hike! Such a free spirit. She reminds me a little of Revelle.

  • Erin
    June 14, 2012

    I resisted texting for a long time. It’s true that once you cave, you can never go back. I have been able to stay within the bounds of my 200 texts per month up until very recently with the advent of the smart phone.
    Their texts look like the IM chat boxes, which invite them to have an ongoing conversation. People will text things like:
    *What’s best for you? 5:00?
    *Or 5:30?
    *I’ll text you in 30 minutes.
    *OK?
    So their little conversation just took up 4 of my precious texts! Argh!
    It’s even worse when people send the same text to a bunch of people who all have smart phones and when they reply they reply to all. Then I get stupid texts from people I don’t even know.

    I’m a bit jealous of your non-texting lifestyle.

    • Alison
      June 15, 2012

      Erin, you’re describing my fears, i.e. that even when WE’RE intentional in our texting or other use of technology — other people won’t be, and will impact us in ways we don’t like. BTW, good seeing you last night.

  • Colleen
    June 15, 2012

    I’ll chime in again, concerning being impacted by other people’s texting habits. Yesterday’s example: I have a friend who often has tickets to interesting lectures and concerts that she can’t use … she occasionally sends out a group text to try and give them away, and yesterday she did so. While it’s an unexpected “ding!” on my phone, I appreciate her generosity to her circle of friends. However, when others texted back (to all) things like, “thanks, but I can’t go — already have plans,” I wasn’t too keen about those text-interruptions. My M.O. — I won’t respond unnecessarily to the whole group if I can’t take the tickets. In the end, I’m intentional to not let their eager texting bother me that much. There are much bigger things in the world to worry about. :)

  • craftygreenpoet
    June 24, 2012

    I have never texted in my life and it’s never been a problem…

    • Alison
      June 28, 2012

      Ah Juliet, you’re such a kindred spirit.

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