Guest blogger Geoffrey Faustman, MA, IMF offers the following insights on texting and how it can impact relationships. Geoffrey is a registered Marriage & Family Therapist intern with over 1500 hours of experience and offers counseling services at affordable rates. For more information on Geoffrey and his counseling services, please visit his website at www.geoffreyfaustman.com or see his page on my website HERE.
The Impact of Text Messaging
Text messaging had become one of the foremost means of communicating in society today. It certainly has its benefits—it’s quick, to the point, and instant. One can send off a text almost anywhere and anytime. It’s very helpful for making plans or sending a visual record for making plans (addresses or times to meet) and other exchanges of important information.
However, it has been found that texting can also be detrimental to relationships, especially when it is used as a primary form of communication. Many people have explained that it has actually created additional strain on their relationships, mostly because of the limits of texting communication triggering anxiety.
Misunderstandings, arguments or fights that have started or have been a result of texting usually must be resolved using either face-to-face communication or at the very least, a voice-to-voice phone call. With texting, because it is so impersonal (save the use of smilies, emoticons, and clues like “LOL,” and tone like sarcasm or sincerity) there is so much potential room for misunderstanding—misunderstanding that might not happen if the communicators had been able to pick up on the lost social clues of voice inflection, facial expressions or body language.
Imagine the difference between a texted apology of “I’m sorry” to being told and seeing or feeling the sincerity in one’s eyes saying it. Some of the appeal of texting has been to actually avoid these situations that can be painful, but the pain is part of the process: “The complexity and messiness of human communication gets shortchanged. Those things are what lead to better relationships.”
Another problem that I can identify with texting is that often times it is intentionally used to be conversation-avoidant. Texting allows us to be impersonal and send quick messages that we might not otherwise communicate (i.e a quick “happy birthday!” instead of having to fake an enthusiasm you’re not really feeling). The issue lays in that many people are on edge because they often do not know of the sincerity level of the sender, and everyone knows that it happens. This leads to an additional anxiety of how long it takes a person to respond or even a lack of response may make the sender feel a form of rejection or avoidance.
Truth is, of course, sometimes people are not able to answer immediately or they may simply not feel like a response is necessary when the sender does. These types of anxieties of dealing with the unknown create additional insecure feelings in relationships.
When relying on texting for communication, the high risk of misinterpretation and the ambiguity within the concise messages. Facial expressions and vocal inflection are still the only ways to truly read emotion. While emoticons may help further express feelings, partners still need physical contact and quality interactions to maintain relationships.
Sylvia Flanagan, MFT is a San Diego therapist with a private practice in Mission Valley. For more information, feel free to call or email me.