“Texting is a fundamentally sneaky form of communication, which we should despise, but it is such a boon we don’t care. We are all sneaks now.” – Lynne Truss
That request would’ve sounded crazy twenty-five years ago.
Now it’s the way many of us communicate; it’s easy, fun, and convenient. It opens up time in your day to be more productive. Or to binge on a little Netflix.
A quick text can be expedient and efficient for work, and it allows you to stay in touch with friends and family. Longer text conversations can take place while you’re simultaneously cooking, working out, or otherwise occupied. Group texts can be both fun – and times, annoying, with way too many “dings” going on. And you bet it can feel a little intrusive.
Yet you pick up your phone and reply, even when you’d rather not…or worse, it takes your attention away from what you’re doing.
How can texting lead to problems?
1) You can irrationally or wrongly interpret the “why” of no response or a delayed one..
What’s fascinating neurologically about texting is that dopamine is released when you’re awaiting a response — and what does dopamine do? It’s known as the seeking neurotransmitter. It’s released when you’re seeking something out that you anticipate being pleasurable. The more dopamine, the more seeking.
So, what happens when a reply doesn’t arrive? An hour can make you believe that you’ve been abandoned, forgotten, disrespected, or ghosted, or even a few minutes can lead to imagining a catastrophe — that the absent sender has been abducted. You text other friends for advice and the “why” can be the topic of endless, agonizing speculation.
It’s even worse when you see those three flashing little dots, only to see them disappear. Theories spring into action. And you’re. a wreck. There’s no dopamine happening anymore… Cortisol and thus anxiety is running rampant. Or anger.
And there’s the dreaded one-word response. And let’s not forget the drunk texting late at night.. not usually positive.
2) Texting ignores those around you..
I don’t think we realize how much innate power the act of texting in front of someone else has on that relationship. Think about it. You’re hunkered over your phone, head down, privately giggling, or rapidly moving your fingers over the keys. You’re not in the moment with them at all, or certainly not completely. No wonder it leads to problems with distrust.
And then there’s texting as a replacement for real, live conversation.
I had a young female patient who was miserable here at our local university. Let’s call her Lisa. Lisa was from another state, and complained to me, “Everyone already has their friend groups.” I asked her what she did as she walked between classes.
“I usually text my mom.”
“I wonder if the person right next to you, walking up the steps and going into the same classroom, might be someone to say hi to?”
“I’d never thought of that.”
Lisa wasn’t available to anyone around her as she giggled with her mom or told her how miserable she was.
3) Texting can serve as an escape or become a way to avoid intimacy…
There’s a poignant sadness in seeing a family, or a couple, supposedly out for dinner, and all are on their phones.
I never know quite what to think. Are they uncomfortable? Unhappy? Is there nothing to talk about? Do they not realize that time is a gift? Is the game they are playing, or the scores they are checking, that important?
4) Texting can make betrayal far too easy…
“She used to have her phone out, just laying around. I noticed that wasn’t happening anymore. She took it with her everywhere. When she took a shower, I picked it up.”
“I was using his phone to Google something, and saw their texts.”
Discovering texts has become a prevalent way for people to find out about affairs, whether sexual or emotional. Maybe it’s you that is having a teasing, flirty, fairly intimate relationship with someone else that spices up your daily life but feels otherwise innocent. But it’s a secret; you don’t share the conversations with your partner, because you know it would hurt them. This is deceit by omission. And talk about dopamine…
So what can be done about this?