As someone who is forever reaching for his cell phone—someone who is, in fact, so attached to the device that he might as well have it surgically adhered to his forearm for added convenience—I have often questioned the formalities of sending and receiving text messages. Is texting so vital to communication that the activity warrants etiquette guidelines?
In the early 2000s, email eradicated the mailman and the art of writing letters (snail mail), and became the primary method of text-based communication. With the wind went the days of waiting by the mailbox for the mailman’s arrival like Vladimir and Estragon waiting for Godot.
But with the growing prevalence of this innovative technology came new rules. Email assumed all the tasks and most of the etiquette of letter-writing, but remained less formal.
Now that texting has, for the most part, overwhelmed calling as the preferred method of distance-interaction, many avid texters like myself have established their own rules regarding the pastime. And while most of these rules are never really expressed—are discussed in hushed tones because such a thing as re-texting someone who has not yet responded to the initial text in question is understood as an act of desperation for seemingly no other reason than because it just is—many of them have gained wide acceptance.
Texting was originally meant to serve as nothing more than a quick and concise way of communicating something to a friend, something that does not warrant a phone call, something that can be said and left alone, without fanfare or frustrating goodbyes. It was meant to function as email on a smaller scale. Somewhere along the way, the art of good texting, in some circles, managed to ascend unto a new plateau of importance.
But an all too reliant relationship with text messaging breeds social awkwardness. An activity as casual as texting should never replace voice-to-voice communication, especially when the most commonly used lingo consists of acronyms and emoticons. It is imperative that the anxiety and formality associated with texting be broken.
So the next time you find yourself obsessing over whether or not it is too soon to text the cute guy you met at a party only a few hours prior, or whether your negligent friends have all conspired to ignore your messages after not responding for longer than two hours, take a deep breath and remember that it is not the end of the world. Remember that rules are sometimes best when broken, and that no matter what, forthrightness always prevails. So go ahead, be extra-friendly, send another text, or maybe even call. And if you’re daring enough to leave a voice message, do not forget to ramble, if for no reason other than the fact that you can.