By Chantelle K. Dockter,
MA, Licensed Professional Counselor
Associate of CCCOW,.
Question: I have a close friend that has begun to use texting as her only form of communication. As a result I feel disconnected from her and am wondering if I should say something to her or just deal with it?
Answer: It is understandable that you feel detached as a result from such a limiting method of communication. Your situation is reflective of where much of our society stands on communicating with one another these days. The boom of texting has been both a blessing and a curse, and seems to have been taken to the extreme by many. One of the problems with this is that other more effective and fulfilling forms of communication are neglected. As I have touched on in previous articles, the majority of communication lies in the nonverbal rather than the content itself. This includes eye contact, facial expressions, body language, and tone. None of these are conveyed in a text, which means the receiver can interpret the text in a variety of ways, which may or may not be the ways that the sender intended.
There definitely is a time and place to text, and the benefit is that we have yet one more way to communicate with those in our lives. Texting can be the best way to communicate if you need your spouse to pick something up on the way home, are in a social setting where talking on the phone would be inappropriate, or to let someone know you are thinking of them.
This being said, there are many times where texting is not appropriate and other form of communication would be a much better choice. I have many couples that come in for therapy and endorse “fighting” over text. I cannot emphasize enough how dangerous this is. People tend to get rather bold and text things they would never actually say to the other person if in person or even over the phone. Generally speaking these are negative, hurtful “jabs” and end up inflicting additional wounds rather than aiding in reconciliation. A good rule of thumb is never to text something to someone that you would not say to their face.
Texting should be limited or not done at all in situations where the person you are physically present with would feel “second” to the person you are texting. We all know that person who is constantly texting someone else when they are spending time with you. We should be careful not to give the message that there are more important things to occupy our attention. If you have a job that requires you be more available to texts, explain that to the company you are keeping and keep it as contained as possible. As with the woman’s situation above, be aware that relationships are kept alive and thriving by true connection and communication, which must include more than text messages.
In working with teens, I am amazed at the number of texts they send and receive daily. A teen girl I saw this week said she averages 1,000 texts a day! She said she texts all day, even during class. Many teens also report texting in the middle of the night rather than getting a good night’s sleep. It is clear to me that there should be places and times where texting is just not acceptable, such as in class and for young ones in the middle of the night. Not only that, there have been a handful of times I have had to call a client on texting in a session…and not every time has it been a teenager, either! Adults can be just as disrespectful, whether it is unintentional or not. So…do your relationships a favor by not turning them into “texting only” communication. If you find yourself in this situation with a loved one, don’t be afraid to tell them how you feel and what you desire from the relationship when it comes to communication.
Chantelle K. Dockter, MA, LPC
Associate of CCCOW