textual communication

Wisconsin sun.
Wisconsin sun

Scottish Dave is the very proud owner of the dumbest phone in the world. It literally does nothing but flip up, which was a super cool trick back in 2002. While I was visiting Scotland, it was incredibly frustrating trying to communicate with him, as there was literally no way for me to reach him if we weren’t face-to-face or he didn’t happen to be looking right at his computer.

I had to revert to the 90s, back when people made plans to be somewhere from their homes, and then they left, trusting folks would be where they said they’d be, when they said they’d be there. The problem is, Scottish David is a wee bit…forgetful. He gets really caught up in moments, absolute rubbish at clock management, and has an awfully hard time saying no. We’ve had a few incidents (which I won’t get into…he’s terribly sensitive about them) where I couldn’t help but think if the kid had a freaking functioning phone I could text him on, all crises could have been averted. When he visited me in Poland, I truly believed I had a 50/50 chance of actually meeting up with him after he boarded his plane in Scotland. But sure shit, he showed up, somehow, right where he was supposed to…and only an hour after he predicted.

Poland hill walking
Poland hill walking

That being said, there is something incredibly charming about wee Dave and his little flip phone. When we are out and about, he isn’t constantly checking his phone, checking Facebook, or getting instant alerts as to what other people are doing. He isn’t Instagramming or checking scores, swiping left or swiping right. He is 100% where he is, all of the time. When we have disagreements about who sings this, or the definition of that, or whether or not doctors actually used to recommend that Scottish folks drink 8 glasses of beer a day because of water contamination, instead of insta-googling everything, we have entertaining conversations, building our cases with our in-the-moment beliefs, either conceding or agreeing to disagree in the end.

It’s nice, really. (I still 100% stand by the fact if anyone could benefit from a smart phone, at the very least, one that can modern-day text, it is Scottish Dave.)

Smokestacks of Madison
Smokestacks of Madison

But as nice as it is, I won’t lie, I love my phone. I love Instagram, I love being able to look things up immediately, confirming or denying beliefs, I love texting. And emojis. And having full conversations with just emojis. On long plane rides when I get bored, I sometimes review text conversations with my good friends, and I’ll be honest, we’re hilarious (especially you, Michelle).

But textual communication is dan-ger-ous. It’s next to impossible to convey tone (at least the correct tone). People will inevitably read text messages with a completely different inflection than you wrote them with. So much room for inferring, implying, assuming, fails. Accidental word omissions can be the difference between an acceptance and a rejection, happy and sad, love and hate. And I’m pretty sure I don’t need to talk about the nightmare that is Autocorrect.

Golden Gate, San Francisco. yes, these photos are super random.
Golden Gate, San Francisco. yes, these photos are super random.

And that’s not even the worst of it. One can drive themselves absolutely crazy waiting for the ellipses to appear, thinking too much about texting strategy: Okay, he texted!! How long should I wait to respond? How many texts in a row can I send before looking crazy? OH MY GOD WHAT CAN SHE POSSIBLY BE DOING? What kind of game is he playing? Is she ignoring me? AARRRGHHHHHH. Jerk.

Being unemployed I do have to remind myself that other people have actual jobs and aren’t at liberty to text with the sweet, sweet freedom I have. But I don’t play textual games. I keep my phone on silent. When I see a text message, I respond. Sometimes that is immediately, sometimes it is not. Sometimes I look at it when I shouldn’t, if only because I can’t actually take the time to reply, and then I forget. And then I respond when I remember. I don’t care how many texts I send in a row (in fact, to Hayato, the more the better). I don’t care if I look crazy. I assume other people play text games, because I’ve heard an awful lot about some weird ass “texting rules.” I just can’t be bothered to care.

Spring at the Union, Madison
Spring at the Union, Madison

And as a writer, I love being able to communicate in this way. Words are my jam. I have never in my life sent texts resembling, “c u soon?” or, “ur gr8,” and have been known to break off relationships with people who use LOL too much/at all, or use texting as an excuse for bad spelling and/or grammar. I have standards, people. And a healthy respect for language.

And I used to believe I was very much like the written version of myself, that I was like my thought-through posts, well-written emails, witty texts. Until one (obviously ex) boyfriend asked me, “Why aren’t you more like your emails?” (Because you send a lot of emails in long distance relationships.)

I was insulted. And sort of hurt. WTF, MAN (yes WTF and OMG are okay…LOL, is not). I AM EXACTLY LIKE MY EMAILS. I MEAN, I WROTE THEM. I DID. ME.

But then I thought about it more and realized…he was right. Of course I am different. In person, I have no filter. I have trouble thinking before I speak. I slur and mumble and talk too fast. People can’t understand me, even if I am saying something worthy of one of those well-written, witty, thought-provoking emails. I sometimes interrupt, I am easily distracted, fidgety, and eye contact isn’t always in my skill set for the day.

And the ultimate kicker, something you’ve probably heard since you could hear: actions speak louder than words. 

Actually....this sums me up pretty well. Good job, Facebook?
Actually….this sums me up pretty well. Good job, Facebook?

Just recently, I connected beautifully, magically, splendidly with a person via written communication, but kind of missed the bullseye in face to face interactions. We couldn’t quite figure out what was going on, but there was definitely something off, which was sort of insane, given how awesome we both are at textual messaging. Unfortunately, that awesomeness didn’t spill over into the 3D world, and we’re still scratching our heads as we walk away. I’ve heard people talk about the dangers of texting and what it can do to relationships; that it doesn’t really represent who you are, that you can say things more easily, things you might not say in person. But I don’t really believe that. Your words, all of them, written, spoken, signed, texted – they all make up who you are. I still know there is a huge part of that dude that I really connect with. We were just trying to fit a three-pronged plug into a two-pronged outlet.

And I still love texting. And I want all the emojis to get married and have millions of emoji babies (particularly one for cheese, how is there not one for cheese!?!). But shit, you got me, ex BF. In Person Tosh is different from Email/Text Message Tosh. But while Email/Text Message Tosh might not encompass In Person Tosh, she is still a huge part of In Person Tosh.

She’s just not all that I am.

Feet on a bridge over water in Wales
Feet on a bridge over water in Wales

2 Comments on “textual communication

  1. I’m wid joo. I have 4 teens and our texts can be very, very different from our verbal conversations would be even if they’re in the next room…and I reckon we get more of each other for it, almost like the verbal stuff is only half of the deal.

    Cute ankles btw…

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