It’s not exactly breaking news that texting is harmful for relationships, both romantic and otherwise. In today’s technological era, it’s easier and socially safer to formulate a text message than to verbally express oneself. Frighteningly enough, I recently saw a TV news segment on high school students (and younger!) swiping through dating apps rather than approaching a crush in school. My jaw dropped.
Have our phones become such an addiction that we prefer to incessantly message each other than hear someone’s voice? Or, even scarier, talk in person?
I’m guilty of texting ideas or conversations when it would be quicker and more efficient to place a call. More so, I’m too impatient to wait until the next time I see someone to catch up. Why? Cell phones have provided instant gratification. Why wait to see your best friend or significant other to catch them up on what’s happened in your life when you could send a message? Yet, upon realizing how it’s affecting the next generation, I opted to do a social experiment with the top five people I communicate with most. Skip the texts, go straight to phone calls and in-person meets. I hoped our connection would not only strengthen but would cause us to actually miss one another.
The first few days felt like a detox. After years of adapting to express my every thought whenever I wanted, it was a conscious effort not to reach for communication countless times throughout the day. By the week’s end, I realized that what I deemed topical in the moment wasn’t worth discussing at all. In fact, after a day or so of mulling details over, certain moments were even boring. Sure, with my killer storytelling skills, I could’ve made any mundane moment sound like headline material, but in retrospect, most of it seemed trivial.
However, the bigger moments stood out and therefore lengthened the back and forth over the phone and in person. Suddenly, conversations weren’t one sided catch-ups but rather a two-way street of ideas and talking points. Because we weren’t rehashing all the minute details of our lives, we dove deeper into the things that were impactful. In turn, we got to know each other better.
Even greater, there was less room for miscommunication. We’ve taken for granted the difference tone of voice and facial expression has on a conversation, whether it be serious or lighthearted. By eliminating texting, there was no room for hidden messages or reading between the lines. When we cut out the instant gratification that texting provides, we were quicker to pick up the phone and plan to see each other in person. We saw true value in the simplicity of hearing one another’s voice, of laughing over a meal.
After three weeks of my texting experiment, I saw a difference in these five relationships. Our communication deepened. I also saw a difference in myself. It allowed me to focus on hobbies, my work, and those immediately around me in moments I might have otherwise reached for the phone. I wasn’t preoccupied worrying about responding to or awaiting a text; I was too focused on what was in front of me.
I’m proud to say I never took these things for granted, but it was nice to be reminded that I could cut off technology in this small way. I disconnected to connect and after feeling the difference, I’ll never go back (with these few at least).
This article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper. Read more about #EverythingEastEnd here