A couple of weeks back I was in the passenger seat of a police car talking with an officer while his phone blew up with texts from his girlfriend. It was text after text after text, and while none of it smelled crazy, the sheer amount of texting was driving him nuts.
TL;DR – talk to your partner about perceived expected text response, it’s a relationship issue not a text issue.
A week or so before that I’d been asked at work if someone was dismissing them due to short texts. Both times I got dragged into people’s text life because, well, I have no idea. It happens a lot when you mention you write about technology.
The officer’s texts were many, but coherent and when read seemed like a fine message being completely overruled by five or so blasts of an incoming text.
The person at work, the responses were on par with that SNL sketch where someone writes out a long and impassioned love letter and gets back a letter containing only the words “that’s great!”
Both people felt the person on the other end was great in person but the digital communication was sending a different message.
Too many texts
I asked the officer how the texts were being sent. He did not know. He didn’t know that you could send texts from a computer.
He imagined she was sitting on her phone frantically typing out all these texts and sending them one by one just to get his attention. While getting his attention was the end goal, the officer felt that the continual texting was interrupting his work.
I asked him if he remembered AOL Instant Messenger. He did. I asked if this looked like a normal chat in AIM, it did. I asked if he thought she expected a response immediately and he did not know. He also did not know how she was texting him, whether on an on-screen keyboard or voice to text, or like I do quite often from a computer.
Each one of these ways seems to have a different number of words per send. People from the AIM days will paragraph across multiple texts as it’s like chatting. People on on-screen keyboards tend to have shorter sentences, little more to the point. People on voice to text have these great long paragraph level texts that often have something hilariously wrong.
Either way though the problem with the communication was a lack of communication. He didn’t know whether she was expecting a response and felt compelled to respond as quickly as possible, and he thought all the extra texting was a request for comment right now.. right now… right now.
I pointed out she may just be at a computer and typing and he should really ask nicely how she’s sending it and if she has a problem with waiting a while for a response as, well, he’s a cop and had other things to do.
Communication on communication was the key. That and not showing someone’s texts to a stranger and asking “does this seem crazy to you?” Meta yourself before you … nevermind…
I just assumed she was on a keyboard, linked to her phone via something like Messages for Web.
The other side of the coin was someone asking me, because I appear harmless and fluffy and wise, whether the responses to said texting indicated that dude was not blowing her off.
Short responses to long questions… being on read with no response…
Did he know he was bringing grief? No. Does he write emails or long texts on the phone? No. I mean I have no answer, I’ve left people on read quite a bit because I’ll get a text in a meeting and deal with it real life later. I expect people know I don’t play games. Maybe I’m old.
Texting for me is a method of organizing locations to meet up to not have to text. I’m pretty sure dude was a slow typer as his off-phone game was evidently strong.
Literally not knowing what they expect
I don’t know for certain, but I’m pretty sure that the officer’s texts were coming from a chatroom/AIM-using woman on a keyboard with no expectation of immediate response. They were being received by a man who thought that he was expected to reply and respond immediately or face boyfriend jail.
The other read as a guy who types slowly, is busy at work, and seems basically just a bit off on what’s expected of him in print but fine in real life. But, I mean he could secretly be someone who gets off causing other people angst. Who knows? Not me the guy who was being asked.
We’ve got no idea
Yeah, talk to your SO about texting before showing your phone to a random blogger.
Really. If you’re not in a relationship where the text messages are comfortable, and talking to the person about them seems like you might be breaking a puppy in half, something’s up that a fluffy tech blogger isn’t going to be able to fix.
I mean don’t go off like “your text message storm is killing me!” – like seriously, you like this person, tell them what you believe is expected of you when a message come in. Ask if they have a problem with sending fewer and waiting a while for a response.
Do it before it gets to the point of showing a random fluffy gray haired tech blogger what they think. Not everyone was raised on the net, with the same expectations of text etiquette as you hold. Not everyone is getting a pleasant “blerp” to remind them someone thinks they’re great – some of them are getting a Metallica riff with a rooster and an explosion blaring for every text you send.
That’s on them though.