Why I’ve Stopped Texting Back

Technology grants us access to people whenever we need them, but 24/7 availability isn’t always a good thing.

Photo by Jonah Pettrich on Unsplash

I’m the worst possible person when it comes to texting/messaging/WhatsApping/Snapchatting back. It’s not deliberate; I’m naturally lazy and, without meaning to exude pretentiousness, prefer in person or phone-call conversations. Communication is a beautiful expressive medium that allows us to extract similarities/differences from other people’s subconscious, helping us to expand our worldly knowledge and share our humanity. However, talking to people consumes a significant amount of energy, and I feel a lot of us often forget that.

The technology we use to interact with each other proves we’re really in the future now. Friends and family are well within digital reach, but that doesn’t mean to say we’re all readily available. Not responding to people within a limited timeframe tends to be regarded as anti-social and downright rude, and it isn’t restricted to people you know, either. Everyone from employers to brands you unwittingly subscribed to demand your attention, and will bombard you with e-mails, texts, and Facebook messages until they get what they want.

It’s all incredibly draining. It’s also disrespectful of the human need to switch off every once in a while. While I appreciate the check-ins from long-distance friends or the update on corporate gossip, I struggle to find the energy to sit down and orchestrate a sufficient reply. My ‘three to five working days’ response time is probably responsible for many of my fizzled out friendships, but I don’t think it’s particularly fair. There are people I can go months without seeing or hearing from, but we’ll meet up and all will be just as it was. Then there are the people who get upset, despite me tirelessly explaining in person that I’m dreadful at replying, and unfollow/unfriend me after severely misinterpreting my silence. As such, I feel the need to justify my slackness. Here are some reasons as to why I haven’t replied:

I’ve left it too late.

If the message preview implies that what you’ve sent me is something akin in length to an academic essay, I’ll leave it unopened until I find the time to read it through. Often, because I’m a terrible person, and because I’ve turned off all push notifications, I’ll forget about the message. By the time I remember it, my anxiety berates me for leaving it too late. It’ll be too awkward to reply now, a week, or perhaps a month later, so it’s probably best I don’t open it at all. If it was urgent, you would’ve called me, right?

I was repeatedly nagged at as a child.

Bombardment of messages emulate that same sense of overwhelmment. Having been berated for not doing what I didn’t want to do for most of my life, my adult persona is one who retreats inward to null external conflict. I hate feeling like I have to respond to something because the child in me rejects all manner of authority and demands I do things my way. And in my own time which, unfortunately, translates as never.

My tone may read as off.

In instances where I have replied in due time, the intent of my messages has been misconstrued. It’s true that I text like your local dealer, simply because I write for a living and I like the relief of not having to think about words for once. The abbreviation of words does tend to lend a comical effect to an otherwise serious matter, but more often than not it’s the content of the message that’s misread. In conversation, words delivered by the warmth of a voice reassures the receiver that you are genuinely concerned and/or just teasing. When stripped of this warmth, words become modern art; plain text on a stark white canvas, and so an anxious and analytical mind can easily find alternate meaning where there was none. I’d much rather speak over the phone to avoid this.

I’m busy!

As a postgraduate student, I should, in theory, be busy for 99% of my awake time. The reality is that the vast majority of my days is spent by procrastinating, getting overly stressed, and panic cleaning my bedroom. But sometimes (not often), I’m neck-deep in my ‘creative’ space, and I can’t afford to be distracted in those rare moments of productive bliss. When I’m really serious, I put my phone in a drawer on the opposite side of my room, on silent, and ignore it until after I’ve achieved a sufficient amount of work. By the time I snap out of these moments to read your messages… well, see my first point.

I can’t be bothered.

This depends on the type of message. If it’s a meme, a photo, or a passing comment about a Netflix series, I’m probably not going to reply. That doesn’t mean to say I didn’t read it or that I despise you, it’s just not always worth the effort of typing out a vapid response that you won’t know how to reply to either. Sometimes, some messages just need to be left on read. Conversation in the real world draws to a natural close, so digitised exchanges can too.

I’m not okay.

Despite repeated efforts to oust my depression, it still dictates a substantial portion of my waking life. There are days when I can’t bear to part with the growing discomfort of my bed, and it can take a while to coax myself out of such a state. During these times, the thought of formulating a response to people’s messages, regardless of how well-meaning they are, seems a strenuous task. This, coupled with the anxiety of off-tone delivery and wondering if I’ve left it too late to reply, means I often don’t get back to you.

Again, it could just be me. Maybe I’m an old, embittered soul trapped in a millennial flesh frame, but I cannot stress my favour of arranged meet-ups/phone-calls over back/forth texting enough. I only message people when it’s absolutely necessary, as I don’t particularly enjoy the thought of the shrill sound of my pointless text interrupting someone else’s creative, work, or alone time. As much as I think it’s important to stay in contact with friends, there are other methods of doing this outside of direct conversation. Even a like on a selfie or a retweet is enough to show you’re still quietly supporting them from afar, and for God’s sake, if you need me, call me. It’s so much easier to be there for someone in voice than in the computerised coldness of my (awful and illiterate) texts.

Writer. Forever student. Currently studying PGCE English at the University of Oxford. https://instagram.com/greta.docx

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