On Texting

Gawker recently ran a feature on “The Nine Types of Text Messaging Monster”, a description of the different ways in which people us SMS. One of the types they identify is “The Never Call”

There are some people who love to text so much that the phone part of their cell phone has become completely obsolete.

In response to this Rick Webb wrote:

I am one of those people. But let me explain something to you. The telephone was an aberration in human development. It was a 70 year or so period where for some reason humans decided it was socially acceptable to ring a loud bell in someone else’s life and they were expected to come running, like dogs. This was the equivalent of thinking it was okay to walk into someone’s living room and start shouting. it was never okay. It’s less okay now. Telephone calls are rude. They are interruptive. Technology has solved this brief aberration in human behavior. We have a thing now called THE TEXT MESSAGE. It is magical, non-intrusive, optional, and, just like human speech originally was meant to be, is turn based and two way. You talk. I talk next. Then you talk. And we do it when it’s convenient for both of us.

Reading this I couldn’t help but think “Yes!!! Someone else gets it!”.

I’ve always had a strange relationship with the telephone. I really don’t like phone calls. I’m OK with functional calls that have a point, a short call to organise something. Brief. But I really can’t stand “conversations” on the phone. Never have. As such, to this day I try to avoid phoning people if at all possible. So, i’m pretty much a texter. But, Gawker do make a good point in their article, one I’ve come around to despite my aversion to calling people.

We’d much rather text most of the time too, but sometimes a call is necessary. The general rule should be if there are more than three questions or the problem can not be solved in three messages, then just pick up the phone and have a short conversation rather than waiting for the back and forth of texting.

These days if it looks like a texting conversation about arranging something is going to spiral into a long series of back-and-forths, then i’ll just call. But still, for the most part I try to only use the phone via SMS.

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Photo owned by kiwanja (cc)

What really leapt out at me from Webb’s comment was this idea that the phone is “an aberration in human development”. I really liked:

for some reason humans decided it was socially acceptable to ring a loud bell in someone else’s life and they were expected to come running, like dogs. This was the equivalent of thinking it was okay to walk into someone’s living room and start shouting. it was never okay. It’s less okay now. Telephone calls are rude. They are interruptive

Just after I read this yesterday I was talking to someone and our conversation was interrupted by a phonecall. So there I stood like a lemon for a good five minutes waiting for this other conversation to end. It really dawned on me then just how rude the phone is. It really is an intrusion into our lives. My Dad hates mobile phones. To him, the idea that you can be contactable (and are expected to be contactable) at all times, in all places is just horrible. Sometimes I agree.

Nowadays you are simply expected to have a mobile, and to have it at all times. At all times we must be connected to everyone else, and they reserve the right to invade wherever you are at any time. But as Webb points out texting goes someway to leveraging this. Yes, OK, you can get me, but I will read and reply in my own time, and not be subject to your demands on my time!

Is online chat the same? Where does it lie? It is a real-time conversation, but it doesn’t hold the demands of a phonecall…you can take time with your replies, you can even attend to something else then rejoin the conversation. A happy medium?