The texting era

Rob Pavacic

My first phone was actually a blue, Motorola flip phone.

Nobody born in the 2000s knows the pain of typing each number 2-3 times to choose a particular letter. But back then, I felt like the fastest ‘texter’ around on my flip phone. For some reason, my brain equated the action of texting on a flip phone with that of typing on a computer.

It must have had something to do with the tactile touch and feedback of the phone itself. Today, typing on a screen just doesn’t provide that same experience.

Texting as a form of communication

These days, and the last few years really, I’ve been bad at texting people. Didn’t matter if it was I whom had initiated the text or if I was responding to someone else’s text. Sometimes it would take me literal days to respond to a message unless I had a very close relationship with the person. In cases where we were close, it would only take me a few hours (lol).

I’m not a very talkative person. Never have been unless the conversation is something I’m extremely passionate about. Engaging in real conversation face-to-face, has never really been an issue though. All of my senses are fully engaged. I can both see and hear you.

But with texting, brings uncertainty. Texting before iPhones was entirely different. There was no way to tell if someone did or didn’t read your text. This still is the case with Android phones (at least I think it is) by default and with that seemingly minor messaging limitation, texting acts and feels very much like sending or receiving Email. It’s nice not knowing if someone reads your message until you receive a response because it allows you to focus on other things in the meantime. But now, if you’re an iPhone user and leave that feature enabled, there seems to be some invisible, heavy pressure on your end to respond as quickly as possible.

After all, you don’t want the person on the other end to think you’ve left them hanging and aren’t engaged in the back-and-forth text message conversation. What would they think?! Before you even have the time to worry yourself, your thumbs frantically start tapping away at the screen as if they are possessed to do so.

Calling vs. Texting

Not many my age actively remember, but before there was even cell phones, there were beepers. Granted, I didn’t have one but when I was a kid, my dad sure did. I remember him using it primarily for work. Beepers were used essentially to receive a one-way message. Most often, the message received on the beeper would be a phone number to call.

Today, texting isn’t meant for that. It’s a medium of conversation all its own. The conversation is entirely self-contained. It begins and ends with characters, emojis, and gifs. Also, texting conversations typically never evolve into a phone call or any form of person-to-person interaction for that matter.

Having a phone conversation seems much more comfortable to me and I think it has to do with tonality. Very much like person-to-person interaction, you must ‘listen’ to the other participant. You must get a sense of the inflection in their voice when they say certain things and how they string phrases or words together into fully formed thoughts. None of that happens when you text. When you text, there’s like this brick wall between you and the other participants. Does anyone else feel this way?

I don’t know. Maybe it is just me, but if you can’t talk to someone face to face, talking over the phone seems to be the second best alternative. Depending on who you’re speaking with, texting seems like an evolved form of morse code. Cryptic in its own way.


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