Thought Catalog
March 11, 2017

Here’s How ‘Textpectations’ Are Actually Killing Our Ability To Have Successful Relationships

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The most knowledgeable database on the internet, Urban Dictionary, defines Textpectation as:

The point where a text message is sent to someone and there is an expectation to receive one back, this wait, usually long and painful, is known as the “textpectation”.

Texting has revolutionized the way people communicate over the past few years. Prior to texting, the most recent version of “talking without actually talking” form of communication we had was Instant Messenger in our dorm rooms. You know, when you fought with your roommates over who signed you off and signed themselves on, while you were trying to be cool with that away message that implies you are at Jager night at the bar down the street. Dammit, you were waiting for a reply from Shawn69 all day long. Now you will never know if he; a) responded to your IM or, b) saw the away message at all and, c) will show up where you are at tonight. And with that one swift click of the finger it’s going down in room 3o4 because that bitch signed you off. This sort of agony waiting for the IM is directly proportionate to the downward cycle that we sometimes experience when waiting for a text response these days.

Texting, the more evolved version of spelling out words with numbers in beeper codes, while listening to Puff Daddy and the Family, gives us a way to speak our minds without actually speaking. Insert, 187, 143, and running to the nearest payphone. All being that we can send a message without ever speaking a word. And with texting, sometimes when someone keeps you on read, the lack of response, is a response and message in itself. You feel me? Chances are, if someone has ever not responded to your text or waited a ridiculously long time to do so, yes, you feel me.

I wonder what our forefathers did to pass the time when waiting for that horse and carriage to roll up with that scroll. Like how did they deal not knowing if Abigail said yes to their proposal or met some other suitor while waiting for their letter to arrive for 2 months? If you think about it, you really have to appreciate the patience and restraint that our ancestors had. Nowadays, waiting over 10 minutes for a text back, unfolds a chain of events in our brains that starts with an innocent hello how are you and ends with us wondering what the hell we did wrong or if someone just died.

Because it takes about 2 seconds to reply to a text, when we don’t get a response in a rational time frame, or at all, it’s not hard to cross over to the dark side very quickly.

There are several important factors that need to be considered when discussing textpectations.

First, if in 2017, our phones are up our asses 24-7. How can it be so difficult for someone to text you back? Especially for men, who keep phones in their pockets? How can someone seriously reply 5 hours later with “Just saw this now.” Like for real, you just saw this now, but chat says you were on Facebook when I sent the text, you posted a pic of you with your phone in your hand on IG 4 minutes after I sent the text, updated your Twitter 23 minutes later and viewed my Snapchat an hour ago? I don’t get it. You definitely didn’t just see this now. You just decided to respond to it now for whatever reason.

So here comes the pile of reasons why it took so long.

First, there are the reasons we make up in our head that usually sound something like this…

  • They are mad at me.
  • They found out about that one time I called them a bitch.
  • They got abducted by aliens.
  • Their phone fell in the pool.
  • They took a quick ride in an airplane.
  • They died.
  • They are cheating on me with Susan from the gym.
  • They think I’m fat.

And it only gets worse from there. Sometimes, we do get temporary relief when they give us a reason. Ohhhh they replied but they never hit send, ohhhhhh duh, now it all makes sense. Phew. I’m okay for about 8 minutes until I get a reality check and realize that most people go back into their messages at some point within a 24-hour time frame and can easily see if they’ve responded to a text. Game over.

When you text someone and it feels like the message must have gotten lost somewhere in the ethersphere or some shit, what you need to do is stop obsessing over what this means. In my secure relationships, like with my bff, I know it means nothing at all and that if she doesn’t respond it’s because she has to keep her phone in her purse at work. I know this because I get messages and status updates from her first thing in the morning, at lunchtime and again at 5pm. Or my mom, for example, when I don’t respond to her texts hits me with the, “HELLO????? YOUR PHONE IS UP YOUR ASS BUT YOU CAN’T RESPOND TO ME!!”

Yes she actually types it in all caps because she knows I’ll then respond to her. But the truth is, she knows deep down I’m fine, she’s just annoyed that I didn’t text her back. And when I don’t it’s because I’m busy or driving and I know that if I respond I’m opening the flood gates for her to text me repeatedly with small talk all day long.

There’s something to be said about the nature of your relationship with the person that determines how you feel about the response time of a text. Like with my mom, I know she’s in my life and not going anywhere regardless, so I don’t worry about destroying our relationship over not replying to her text. But for others it’s much different. Like when you cannot double text someone you are dating or just met. Or sometimes you can’t be too eager in the texting game, so you have to wait a certain period of time before responding. They waited 2 hours and 33 minutes so I’m gonna hold out for a full 13 minutes before I text back. They never text me so I’m not going to text them, etc.

But through all this, there are only a few times I will not reply to a text in a timely fashion, when I have mom brain and genuinely forget, I’m in the shower or I’m asleep. And, the only time I will ever completely disregard a text is when I have nothing to say. So I often assume that when someone doesn’t reply to me, they have nothing to say either. But sometimes, it just isn’t that deep. How do we know wtf it is without direct voice on voice or face to face contact???

We don’t.

Truthfully, it was much easier when Nextel allowed us to chirp back. But it’s not 2002 and Ludacris is not playing in the background. Technology has taken away from the intimacy of hearing someone’s voice. Yes, it’s convenient but it’s also lazy. And more importantly, a lot is lost in the translation of a text message whether that’s in content, lack thereof, or flat out lack of reply. At times, I still wonder if what I mean to someone is portrayed in what and/or when they respond to me. It’s hard to not feel that way since texting is so effortless, yet it has given us all way too much anxiety at some point or another. Minimize that anxiety by remembering this, it’s just a freakin message, if it comes back great, if not screw it. You simply have too much time on your hands if you are sitting around waiting for validation from that sweet Tri-tone sound and little red number to show up on your phone.

Put the phone down and get back to your life and you. When someone is thinking about you they will text you, better yet they will call you. In the meantime, don’t sit around like a child in the forest waiting for a raven to show up with some crucial life changing message. This is not Game of Thrones, although it may feel like a game at times. Chances are if you have to wait for a raven, what’s really going to show up is a pigeon. So decide what your textpectation is, make sure you click on the correct contact more importantly, hit send (if you’re smart enough to remember that part) and release it. It’s really not that serious.

One of two things are going to happen, you will having a meaningless but funny AF conversation and exchange of memes and screenshots, OR you will be wondering what the hell does this mean like you’re watching smoke signals in the sky, until you decide that texting as a form of communication for some really just doesn’t measure up.

If it does, you will HMU first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Just the way I like it. TC mark