There is something that is just irresistible about texting. Maybe it is the immediacy, maybe it is the shortness of the commentary or maybe it is simply that little red circle with a number in it telling you that someone has just sent you a message. The millennial generation has sometimes been accused of not reading and yet texting is their favorite form of communication. Reading and responding to texts is a very addictive behavior and needs boundaries like every other addiction in life. Yet, when kept under control, it can also be an important means of communicating with those that mean the most to you.
I first started texting when I realized that this was important to my children and younger team members on the team that I lead. It was amazing how some people (in my family) that no longer engaged in as many deep conversations with me as I would have liked and people that would take a while to respond to e-mails suddenly responded quickly to my inquiries and were more articulate that I gave them credit for. It was almost like I had learned another language and it was the one they preferred to speak. As I got more proficient in this new way of communicating, I began to appreciate the efficiency of texting and even discovered that it improved some of my relationships.
Dr. Gary Chapman has written a lot about the concept of “love languages” and for some people in my life this definitely was their preferred way of communicating with me and hearing back from me. If I was not careful, it was going to become just one more time consuming activity that would crowd into my increasingly busy world. How was I going to “manage” all these methods that people could communicate with me now? Skype had already made it cheaper and easier to talk with my colleagues all over the world and Facebook messaging allowed me to connect with any of my hundreds of on-line “friends”. E-mail consumed far too much of my daily activity and talking on the phone was becoming more and more of a novelty. The world was changing so quickly and I was not sure it was a good thing.
In order to keep my sanity and utilize this technology in a way that was actually beneficial, I developed some habits that have helped. In the process, texting has improved with emoticons and I have learned how to apply appropriate boundaries (most of the time). Here are some of the things that have helped me.
1. Being selective in giving out my cell phone #. I have chosen not to print this number on my business card and I normally give my office number as the correct phone number for professional contacts. This has prevented the spamming that I experience in my e-mail world from spilling over into my texting world.
2. Being clear when texting needs to lead to a “real” conversation or an e-mail. It is far too easy to allow a back and forth text conversation to go on longer than it needs to or to get into issues that are better dealt with face to face or via e-mail. Being diligent about this can actually lead to more productive in person discussions and better use of e-mail. Interestingly there are many times when texting is the best method of communicating about an issue.
3. Being respectful of those that I am texting by not abusing this access to them. Texts are for important issues or when I really need information.
4. Responding quickly because that is the nature of this type of communication. There is an implicit assumption about the immediacy of responses to texts. If I cannot respond right away, I let people know.
5. Choosing to use other methods of communicating when it makes more sense, even if it is less efficient. Many conversations really should take place in person, over the phone or via e-mail no matter how much I want to short cut this with a quick text.
Texting has now become an important part of my life and even a means to express my faith commitments. Occasionally, I will text a verse that has meant a lot to me to one of my family members. More often, I will text people with a quick word of encouragement. It is a great way to bring a smile to someone’s face and let them know that you are thinking about them. Urgent prayer requests are now a regular part of my texting with my men’s accountability group. It is no longer an intrusion, but simply a vital tool in my ongoing efforts to communicate better with those I love and interact with on a regular basis.