Telling someone you love them is more powerful than any text.
When it comes to texting instead of talking, I confess to being guilty.
However, after re-reading Sherry Turkle’s “Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age,” I reviewed some of my own articles on texting and have come to see its danger. Texting can replace conversation as communication. Turkle reminds us of research that determined “without conversation, we are less empathetic, less connected, less creative and fulfilled.”
Researchers in a University of North Carolina study in 2014 found that college students who spent a significant amount of time texting were less satisfied with their relationship than other couples. It appeared that texting replaced kinder and more intimate communication. Here’s why. Texting requires almost no emotional investment.
Texting “I love you,” can become almost robotic. In fact, you can just send a heart emoji. While it is fun to receive a love note, it may be far less meaningful than a quick phone call. Telling someone in a sincere tone of voice, “I called to say I love you because you were so supportive when I was falling apart this morning,” is more powerful than any text.
At the other end of the spectrum is the angry text, a way to avoid facing a problem and fixing it. When couples argue face to face, there is the opportunity for one person to say, “Please, I think you may have misunderstood me.”
Texting can also be a way to mask feelings or intentions. While so many young people today say, “I’d rather text than talk,” one must wonder if this is simply an excuse to avoid talking about a relationship problem. Avoidance sets the stage for a peripheral relationship rather than one based on honesty and intimacy.
If you are a texter, it is best to do so for:
— Clarifying a time and date of a meeting.
— Sending directions to an address.
— Asking only one question at a time to get the best response.
— Setting a time for a phone conversation, or even better getting together.
Never use texting for:
— Sending a long angry message unless you are between 12 and 15 years of age.
— Ending a relationship because you are too afraid or indifferent for face to face.
— Saying something hurtful because you are being passive aggressive.
— Teasing someone with half a message and then leaving them hanging.
On the positive side, with a new relationship, texting can be a way to flirt. After an initial meeting, if you really want to connect with the other person, say so. Be direct. “I’m happy we met today. Can we get together this week for coffee or lunch?” This gives the message for starting a relationship based on the art of conversation, a first step toward “getting to know you.”
—Rita Watson is a Journal columnist who also writes “With Love and Gratitude” forPsychologyToday.com.