We’ve all been there: You emerge from class or a meeting at work to find that your “Squad” group text has somehow multiplied by 271 unread messages, like a hydra that just won’t go gentle into that good night. Or someone sends a text that goes on for so long, you half-expect a “Subscribe now to read the rest of this article” notification to pop up on your screen. Or maybe you have a suitor whose idea of imbuing the medium with emotional nuance is to use way too many emojis.
In 2019, it often feels like texting is a misused form of communication. It might help if we all agreed on some basic rules intended to preserve our collective sanity and respect one another’s time. To that end, I propose the following Commandments of Texting:
Thou shalt not abuse the group text.
There are too many group texting faux pas to name, and we’ve all been guilty of them. Perhaps the worst offense? Treating a group text like it’s a social media account. Do we all want to see the video of your kid sloppily eating their “smash cake” on their first birthday? Of course we do! It’s adorable and will brighten our day. Do we want daily updates on that same kid, featuring play-by-plays of what they did/didn’t eat or illnesses they did/didn’t catch at daycare? That stuff is probably best saved for your Twitter feed.
Thou shalt send any communiqué longer than a phone screen via a separate medium.
Texting is inherently best suited for quick, pithy updates, jokes, and other topics that lend themselves to a quick glance and fast response. If it won’t fit on the recipient’s screen, it’s too much information for them to process at a glance. Therefore, they’re not going to respond right away and you might as well just email it or call them.
If you’re thinking too hard about whether it will fit—there’s a pretty sizable difference between an iPhone 5 and an X—you should probably just call.
Thou shalt maybe try to take romantic relationships off text completely.
Ok, maybe this is wishful thinking (somewhat akin to declaring, “I no longer email—all my business correspondence will be conducted via phone and handwritten letter only”). But think about it: Texting with a romantic interest can be so taxing and distracting. On one hand, you’re happy to hear from them; on the other hand, there’s a lot of pressure to text witty, cute responses all. day. long.
There’s freedom, and clarity, in shifting most of your conversations to phone calls and in-person encounters—preferably as soon as possible. I recently made plans for a low-key date night at home with someone I was dating. Then I thought better of it, knowing that things were likely to get more physically intimate than I felt ready for. Inspired by this NYMag piece, I picked up the phone and called the guy. I told him what I wanted, he said he respected my point of view, and we made alternate plans—all with much less confusion and signal-crossing than would have ensued if we’d had the convo via text. And it was much quicker to figure out! I plan to make phone calls an increasingly regular part of my dating life going forward.
Thou shalt practice getting comfortable with conversations ending naturally.
Text convos, like in-person ones, don’t have to go on forever. Here are some clues to help you know when the banter has reached its natural end: You’ve made a plan and decided on a time/place. You’ve shared some LOLs over that monkey gif and have nothing more to say about it. You’ve reached the point in a “life update” convo where you feel comfortable saying, “I’m so happy things are going well for you!” If that’s how you feel, text that—and let it go.
Originally published on March 20, 2019.