Many of you are now watching me as a stand on the ledge of 2018, ready to toss text messaging into the abyss.
A few days ago, I made a public declaration: I’m eliminating text messaging in 2018. I didn’t define for how long. I didn’t say it would even work. I maybe even sounded a little nuts. But what I did say was that I wanted to disrupt the default — to #MakeAmericaCommunicateAgain by setting boundaries, being intentional, thoughtful, and aware. Or at least, make us communicate better.
I’m not saying texting is bad, or that eliminating it is the right thing to do. I’m actually curious (and scared!) about what will happen when I go #textless. I don’t know any people who have done it. And there’s a reason why. Well, a few very fundamental reasons.
We need it to do work. It’s a common method of reaching each other for purely logistical and scheduling reasons. Confirmations and cancellations are great over text.
We need it to check-in and be checked-in on. It’s the easy, discreet way to know someone’s alright, or to let your people know you’re thinking of them, but might not have time for a full conversation.
There’s tremendous value in these two contexts, and I actually have no clue what’s gonna go down when I am mute in those categories. These are the two contexts that remain tricky, in my eyes, when all the back-and-forth bells and whistles are stripped away: flirting, gossip, funny pictures, popular memes, and all the other entertaining nonsense that spills in. There are even meaningful, long, text-based convos I know I’m about to be giving up. I know this, and that gives me a little bit of preemptive FOMO.
I feel a little like this:
I made that a couple of weeks ago to try and impress a guy over text. So clearly, you can see exactly why I’m worried what the HELL will become of me after this texting is ripped from my cold, dead thumbs. WHO AM I WITHOUT MY EMOJI SKILLZ? And WHO AM I, in general?!
(Light existential crisis. Brb.)
What’s the alternative? I’m excited to even be giving myself permission to create new options, and hopefully, I’ll empower you to stray from texting as your default go-to for all situations and use it for dialogue that fits nicely in a bubble. I cannot believe the baffling extent to which we have handed over our power to the digital domain. We should be controlling how we communicate — it should not be controlling us!
Here’s what else is being stirred in me as I prepare my cold turkey for consumption:
Will I make quick calls instead of sending texts? Dunno. I hope not, ’cause I don’t really like calls, either. I’m a present-moment kind of girl with a tight schedule and mad-bad subclinical-yet-off-the-charts ADD, so yeah, there’s that. Maybe I’ll learn something new about myself.
Will I re-engineer my schedule so it leaves room for more meaningful conversations? Or, will I realize I have too many digital-domain “friends” and prune my communication down to only the people I would have phone conversations or FaceTime with? (Fuck.)
So. Many. Questions. And finally, I’m fearless (or crazy) enough to conduct an inquiry into these questions, rather than just accepting them as “the norm.” The norm doesn’t make me feel good. So far, you’ve expressed you feel the same way.
What role will social media play? Will I feel lonely? Will I piss people off?
Will I become more active on social media? And a bunch of you have asked this, so I’ll answer now: I won’t have ANY notifications set on my phone for messaging apps. I am deleting the apps for Messenger, WhatsApp et al. As far as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter alerts — those will be nixed, too…that’s been my lifestyle for as long as I can remember, already. I will only look at social alert when I physically sit down at my computer. The whole point will be to be intentional about my time, and to be fully dedicated to whatever I happen to be doing.
I’m calling this “social media office hours.”
Now, I veer away from the work-ish related text anxieties that have been roused. On to personal relationships.
Will I turn on the GPS on my phone so my family knows I’m okay, and I don’t have to reach out? It’s definitely a fact we’ve become so reachable that disappearing for a few hours worries people. “Have you dropped off the face of the earth?” is a question I get when I’m off social media for a couple of days, and that, friends, is a matter of conditioning, rather than necessity, I argue. Might have to re-teach myself how to not be involved in this automated check-in-to-prove-you’re-alive cycle.
Just how needy have we become because of texting — do we really need to be checked on this much? Or, will thoughtful, less-frequent communication swoop in to replace the current, constant way we reach out? Do we actually need the frequency of being “pinged” we’re currently accustomed to? I think we are just addicted…but I don’t actually have the answer. I’m about to feel the truth.
And here’s a biggie: Will my friends and family feel neglected, or will the new methods or communicating I cook up nurture them even better than the occasional “Thinking of you” text? I hope so. I would like to actually become more kind and connected during this process, and at the same time, more receptive to love and attention.
How the actual fuck am I going to survive being single and #textless? That’s a whole separate beast I’m not gonna dangle a steak in front of right now.
The fact that merely saying “I’m about to be textless” sounds almost as dramatic as “I’m about to be homeless” is probably a sign I’m embarking on an experiment that’s needed to be conducted for a while. I’m happy to be the communication canary flying blind into the mine of millenial minds everywhere. But in the meantime, like a true junkie, I’ll be sneaking my final few texts before #textless begins January 1st.