“Can we reschedule? I’m running a bit behind.”
That’s the type of thing I would normally send via text. But this time, I’m #textless, so I literally cannot. (Not to be confused with the pseudo-slang, “literally cannot even.”) I actually can’t send or receive texts, thanks to an experiment I begun in human communication on January 1st.
So instead of texting, I craft my excuse into an email. I write it, proof it, and then, for some reason, I delete it. That’s not the truth. I’m not actually running behind…yet. And because I can’t text, I’m forced to be honest about it…with myself.
Speed up. Shut up. Stop being reluctant and non-committal. Get out the door, you asshole.
I make it to my meeting on time, and as I sit in the aftermath of amending my text-message-dressed-in-emails-clothing, I begin to wonder: Why is it so damn easy to lie over text?
Correct me if this isn’t you:
“I can’t find parking. Be there in 10!”
“I’m super swamped today. Maybe next week?”
“I didn’t see your message until now. I’m so sorry!
But are you really sorry? Are any of us really, deeply sorry for what we do over text?
Kind of. But not really.
What we should be sorry for is that it’s become this easy to lie.
Two weeks into my #textless experiment, I’m feeling my communication skills begin to raise their shriveled little hands in the back of the class. A courteous, curious confidence has vibrantly awakened; its gathering the gumption to ask every stupid question it’s felt too shy to bark up in Textless 101.
There are the gentle questions: Why wasn’t I looking forward to communication before this experiment? Why am I looking forward to it now? Was it always this easy to breathe oxygen into my most valuable relationships? Why didn’t I feel like I ever had enough time to connect? Why wasn’t I putting in the effort before?
And the more rattling ones: Am I inept? Am I avoidant? Am I overwhelmed? Am I letting too many people in to my sphere? Do I only interact with people who think I sound good on paper? Am I afraid of intimacy? Or, am I just a dick?
I thoroughly considered the final hypothesis. Remember that before this experiment, I loathed phone calls, too…not just texts. (Dick). And emails. (Also, dick). And pretty much always wanted to throw my phone into an actual vat of dicks for it to be fucked into oblivion.
I even ditched all social media for an extended period. I tried putting my phone on Do Not Disturb Mode. I removed all app notifications. And that, by process of elimination, led me to zoom in on the one constant that remained…text messaging. Did texting have to do with how shitty I was feeling about my communication skills?
I am proud to report (although a self-report, so we’ll need to corroborate with my peers), that I feel like much less of an asshole now that I don’t have the minefield of texting to navigate. I hope my mini-transformation is translating to the outside world.
I’m carving out less-frequent yet beautifully-focused chunks of time for people I love. Calls, Facetimes, face-to-faces. I save at least three-four hours a day without texting – no shit, I actually added it up! – and I only redistribute that time to people I adore. I also invest that time in myself. That’s real self-care and not just the kind that looks good on Instagram.
I’ve noticed I’m listening more closely to my friends, family, and everyone in my orbit. My inner voice is strengthening – it’s pointing its finger with fervor at the people I actually want to communicate with. It’s giving the finger to the others. And it gives zero fucks about offending anyone.
This new form of micro-honesty makes me feel good to be alive. It was previously hidden between the lines and behind the screen.
Eliminating texting has removed the most forgiving medium for the “white lie” to live in. We get away with murder in the House of Text. We spill blood, but never have to get it on our hands.
The digital lies we’ve normalized through texting are song-and-dancing before our very eyes, but we rarely call them out. Texting empowers us to manipulate others in a micro-nuanced way. It reinforces us for manipulating reality. Nobody’s ever on the hook, because texting not only makes it easy to dodge being transparent, but hides that cycle so well, that a thin layer of dishonesty has become our homeostasis.
Today, we have the truth under our thumbs. There’s a gold-standard of dishonesty that never, ever had space to incubate when voice-to-voice was the preferred petri-dish for dishing conversation.
These are a new crop of white lies.
They are a far cry from pure, well-meaning niceties. They are cowardice; craftiness. They save us from the uncomfortability of the truth. They buffer us from the shittiness of our actions.
I argue that most of the time, we don’t even count texts in our heads as actions. They simply don’t feel real. They are unassuming, unavoidable trojan horses that deliver harsh, sloppy messages in a vessel we rarely think twice about.
They keep us suspended in a world where no one is let down, but somehow, everyone is stood up. We don’t regularly stand up and do the right thing. We do the easy thing.
I can’t do the easy thing right now. And I still remember what it was like two weeks ago, when I wanted to change my mind last-minute, just because I could. I was inconsiderate, and that just felt like normal.
But since #textless began, caring is starting to feel normal.
After all of this, I still don’t think texting is bad, I just don’t think it should be our go-to, normal, default form of communication. And so my quest to #makeamericancommunicateagain continues.