How do you deal with opposing communication styles?
February 8, 2012 8:34 AM   Subscribe

Texter vs. non-texter relations: How do you deal?

Someone sends me a text, and I respond pretty quickly. Maybe it doesn't even necessitate a response, but I like to respond in some way. I come across something random online that makes me think of a friend, I'll send them a link. I even respond to most work emails fairly fast. Etc. I enjoy a quick, non-essential chat. Apparently with greater frequency than some people do.

I know that some people get really annoyed by this kind of thing. I have friends that I will send a dumb message (or even a question!) to on gchat or something, and they never respond. I know from talking about it with some of them (obviously I'm a talker!) that this kind of thing stresses them out or it makes them think the other person is crazy or needy (especially in a dating situation).

I don't care so much with friends, but it's the dating thing that stresses ME out. I'm not so completely socially inept that I can't figure out a person's style within the first couple of exchanges, but I always feel like a crazy person wanting more communication. Mostly because I have heard complaints from non-texting friends about casual dates texting too much and that being a red flag.

No! I'm not a total creep, I'm just a texter! I'm honestly really busy and have a lot of friends and am not actually obsessing over you.

But it drives me INSANE when I'm dealing with a non-responder, especially in those fraught, any-mistake-could-be-a-dealbreaker early dating days. The lack of regular or timely response (even if it's clearly not a lack of interest) will, like, conjure the crazy from nowhere, thus cementing the non-texter's opinion. I am entirely certain I am not crazy, this is a complete non-issue when dealing with someone with a similar communication style, or even when I get to know a non-texter better.

I like lots of different kinds of people, I'm not really willing to just limit myself to people who communicate EXACTLY like I do. But texters: How do you deal with that excruciating silence? And non-texters: What's so wrong with frequent-ish, low-level contact?

(And by "frequent," I mean once a day or every other day or so. Or responding to a text asking a specific question within the hour. And I understand sometimes it's not convenient/possible to respond so soon, I'm talking about general patterns.)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (63 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
For what it's worth, SMS is not a reliable medium -- just because you sent a text doesn't mean that the recipient got it. Messages can be delayed hours sometimes or just disappear into the ether.
posted by reptile at 8:43 AM on February 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

And non-texters: What's so wrong with frequent-ish, low-level contact?

To me, texting is a tool, a way to give or receive information. I don't want to chat via text, and I don't want to chat just to chat.

The lack of regular or timely response (even if it's clearly not a lack of interest) will, like, conjure the crazy from nowhere, thus cementing the non-texter's opinion.

You need to control the crazy if you wan't people to believe your assertions of noncraziness.

Don't send texts with an expectation of response. In general, do things because you want to do them, not because you want what you do to result in someone else doing what you want them to do.
posted by headnsouth at 8:46 AM on February 8, 2012 [42 favorites]

Some people just aren't good at electronic or computer mediated conversation. I actually have family members that will send a text or an email telling me to call them. And then they say something like "Hey, did you see that video, check it out on youtube".

Other times I send emails and texts and get no reply, and then talk to the person on the phone or in person and they are completely chatty and excited to see me.

It helps to realize other people just don't have the setup you do. I can multi-task and I have devices it is easy to communicate on. For others, they may have jobs where they aren't allowed to text or email, so they can't respond. Or they have limited access and get in trouble for more, so they just don't even bother trying unless it is an emergency.

I'm probably like you - an overcommunicator. But a lot of people just aren't. They can't type fast, or don't have the devices. They can't multi-task or it is overwhelming to them to keep responding. Or they just do better on the phone. A million reasons, really.

And on top of that, more and more things seem to be progressing to where everyone wants to interact on facebook. I mean it has been 10 years since I would have friends tell me in person to "check it out on my blog" when I asked them a question face to face, instead of just telling me the story, but now it seems to be in overdrive.

I have a friend I have known since Reagan was president. Texts get no reply or late replies. Emails get no replies. But look at Facebook and you'd think they were running for president or holding a news conference.
posted by cashman at 8:49 AM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Or responding to a text asking a specific question within the hour. And I understand sometimes it's not convenient/possible to respond so soon, I'm talking about general patterns.
I'm a non-responder, mostly because I just do not remember to have my phone with me and charged all the time. I just don't care enough. I'll leave my phone in my bedroom for hours while I'm watching TV or on my computer. I'll walk out the door with a very nearly dead phone, and not get home to charge it all day. I'll leave it in my purse while I'm out to the bar. It's always on vibrate so I can't hear from the next room that I just got a text. Etc. So, just wanted to say, it is very rarely convenient/possible for me to respond to a text quickly.

What's so wrong with frequent-ish, low-level contact?
I have almost purposefully cultivated my phone persona as a non-responder. I do not like to chat via text. It's for informational purposes. Chatting is for the phone or email. This way, my friends and family know I am not a texter and don't expect anything of me on that front. If it's important, they will call me or email me (since I'm more likely to be at a computer than near my phone).
posted by coupdefoudre at 8:50 AM on February 8, 2012 [9 favorites]

Personally I find texting in an interpersonal relationship context extremely annoying & superfluous and try to avoid it at all costs. I'd much rather wait to have a voice-to-voice phone conversation, or better yet share my day's experiences in person rather than thumb off a couple of characters just to assuage somebody's need for instant gratification.

I hate the expectation that "I can respond immediately because it's just a quick text".

I do everything I can, up to and including just plain not responding to particularly pointless texts, to discourage this type of expectation in all of my text-happy friends.

I do this because if you encourage the instant-access communication expectation, it NEVER FUCKING ENDS.
posted by Aquaman at 8:50 AM on February 8, 2012 [16 favorites]

And non-texters: What's so wrong with frequent-ish, low-level contact?

What's wrong with it? I'm concentrating on something and I don't want to be pestered with beeps every two seconds. When I'm working or writing or reading, I like to focus on what's in front of me, get in a flow state, etc. When I'm talking to you, I like to concentrate on talking to you. Even if I love you, I don't want you pinging me with every little thought in your head. Or maybe I'm busy - maybe I'm getting twenty work emails and need to respond to all of them, and then I feel bad and guilty because you want to chat and I have to tell you no again. And picture it in sort of a Kantian-imperative/scalable way - jesus god, what if not only you are my friend but another four or five like you, and the beeps and gchats never stop?

It's not about you being needy, it's about you not grasping that my schedule may not be as flexible as yours and my workstyle may be very different. That's frustrating to me because it says something about your social skills and your knowledge of the world. If you're a student, it doesn't bother me - but if you're an adult who is consistently assuming that all the world keeps your schedule and has your work habits, it starts to seem a little bit self-absorbed.
posted by Frowner at 8:54 AM on February 8, 2012 [64 favorites]

For the most part I'm a non-texter, non-responder. I know that it's annoying to many people but really, it always seems to happen like this:

I receive a text while in the middle of doing something, I pause and slowly start to type out a response full of mistakes and mistaken autocorrects which I must go back and fix, I spend way too much time on what should only take me a few seconds and then, just when I'm getting frustrated and mumbling to myself how much I hate texting, someone walks up and asks me a question or I'm next in line at the cashier, or whatever, so I delete the half-message that I've written, telling myself I'll respond later... then I forget.

Because I know that my not responding means nothing as far as how I feel about the person or what they said, I don't feel badly about it. Whatever I might have said in a text I end up saying later on over the phone or in person.
posted by seriousmoonlight at 8:55 AM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

And non-texters: What's so wrong with frequent-ish, low-level contact?

Mr. Llama calls anyone who texts him 'Hannah Montana'. I don't know if that clarifies for you how some people view texting. Although it probably just makes me and Mr. Llama seem a hundred and ten years old.

I dislike it because it's not as immediate as a phone call or as leisurely as an email or as voluntary as a Facebook interaction, and when you have a lot of demands made on you through other channels, it can feel like a real burden and intrusion.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 8:55 AM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yeah I think the whole point of IMing and texting instead of calling is that it's not as intrusive. If you're busy or you don't want to respond, you don't have to interrupt whatever you're doing at that second. Same goes with e-mail.

I terms of dating there are two strategies that could work. On the first date or whenever you feel is appropriate, you can ask your date how he/she feels about texting etc. and observe what they do with their phones. When the date is ending if you want to go out with them again, establish a way you guys are going to communicate with each other -- "I had a lot of fun, we should do this again, I'll text you to make plans" or whatever. If you don't get a response (either text or phone or email) to your text (after a day or so) and possibly a follow up, you pretty much can assume that either they don't want to hang out with you or they're flakes that you don't want to hang out with.

What I tell my friends who like a lot of communication is that the right person won't mind, or they will be honest with you and tell you they don't like to text much but will still engage in the relationship. The wrong person will play games with you or decide that texting too much is a deal breaker. No big loss. You deserve the level of communication that you want, and you don't have to worry about losing out for being yourself. So be yourself and own it.
posted by Kimberly at 8:56 AM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

And I also really hate the electronic leash thing - the idea that I am socially obligated to respond to every text like it's some kind of drop-dead emergency even if it's just "oooh, did you see the pretty sunset?" Not to mention the idea that it's a social sin to put the phone down or turn it off. You're not paying me; you don't have an automatic right to my attention and time.

If it's time-sensitive or extremely urgent, for pete's sake just call me so that we can hash out all the details at once. If it's not, don't get all worked up if I respond to a text "late".
posted by Frowner at 8:57 AM on February 8, 2012 [12 favorites]

The thing about text is that it's like email -- asynchronous. If you send someone a text, you should not have any expectation that they will respond immediately, or even within an hour. This is because (a) texts are a best-effort service of the telco, they may not even be DELIVERED within an hour and (b) people are busy and their lives don't revolve around text messaging. You claim you're not obsessing but your protestations make me think that maybe, you know, a little bit, you are. Because it is the early, tension-fraught period of dating. Pretend every text sent to a new dating partner takes 4 hours to get delivered because your carrier hates you, then go outside and take a walk or something.
posted by axiom at 8:57 AM on February 8, 2012 [7 favorites]

And non-texters: What's so wrong with frequent-ish, low-level contact?

posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:57 AM on February 8, 2012 [9 favorites]

And non-texters: What's so wrong with frequent-ish, low-level contact?

Look, I love bs'ing on IM and texting every five seconds, I do. But I have also come to realize in my life that I am not one of those people that's capable of doing this and anything else. For instance, if I'm on gchat, and my friend sends me some "hey did you see this thing?" or "whatever happened with so and so?" it completely destroys what I'm doing. Even if it's only three IMs an hour or something.

I know there are plenty of people who don't have this problem. Sometimes I wonder if it has a lot to do with what you're doing. I have a friend who burns through work writing emails to clients and updating spreadsheets and stuff who rarely goes a couple minutes without a casual IM or email to someone else. She gets tons of stuff done and still talks all day. But most of my job involves either designing software, or building software, or debugging someone else's software. It's like imagine if you had a huge wad of Christmas lights that you just took down from the attic and you were trying to unravel them, but then every couple minutes the doorbell rang, and one of your friends was there. Great! Except every time you start to figure out which wire goes wear, and you've got this cord under your right foot and that cord between your pinky and ring finger of your left hand, you have to put it down, cause the doorbell rang, and you completely lose your place, so you don't make any progress.

This is what all-day-long "frequent-ish, low-level contact" feels like to me. The thing is, I still like it, I just hate the feeling of not accomplishing anything because of it, so I have to pretty much go cold turkey and not open Adium or log into facebook. I keep the chat availability turned off on facebook, gmail, etc. I just can't do it.

The worst is when someone will not get that this is a problem for you, and you don't want to leave them hanging or disappoint them, but you've got work to do.

So I don't know what your dating partners are like, but this is one perspective to keep in mind when you get annoyed by someone who won't respond to your emails super quick.
posted by jeb at 9:01 AM on February 8, 2012 [15 favorites]

I think you should separate the non-response from a negative emotional response. Non-response doesn't mean there is anything wrong between us. There are about a million reasons why I might not text you back.

1. My phone is dead/dying.
2. I am doing something which requires intense focus.
3. I am driving.
4. I am giving my attention to another person who is physically with me.
5. I am in a situation in which texting would make me look bad (meeting)
6. I am eating and my hands are gross.
7. I am showering.
8. I am sleeping.
9. I am soldering or doing other fine work.
10. I think I have my phone, but it's actually in my car/coat/bed.
11. I think I am accessible, but I left the ringer off.
12. I am wearing headphones and can't hear the beep.
13. I am in a loud environment and can't hear the beep.
14. I can't think of a good response to your light message.
15. It's not obvious that a response is necessary.
16. You're trying to have a serious emotional exchange over SMS, I can't.
17. I can feel the SMS conversation going badly and am waiting to call.
18. There's no meaningful response to ":-)"
19. I am going to see you in several hours.
20. Using the onscreen keyboard is sometimes frustrating and puts me off.
21. Calling would be much, much more efficient.
22. I can't do the continuous partial attention thing all day in my line of work.
23. I want every advantage of prosody when I express my affection for you.
posted by fake at 9:02 AM on February 8, 2012 [59 favorites]

non-texters: What's so wrong with frequent-ish, low-level contact?

As a non-texter, I don't like to be burdened with the expectation that I am going to drop everything and text someone back when the subject is non-essential. So, I will always text promptly when the answer is required immediately, but when it's not, and I'm working on something, shopping, hanging with friends, chilling on my own or whatever, I am not going to drop everything and text them back, and what is more, I would find it kind of off-putting and needy to have that expectation placed on me. I don't know you and am not saying you're needy, but for someone like me, that's how it would come across.
posted by Ziggy500 at 9:02 AM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm a terrible texter. I sometimes respond to messages DAYS later, if at all. Often I respond with a phone call anyway.

My Blackberry is provided by my employer, but I'm free to use it for personal stuff. Before I started this job in 2010, I didn't have a cell phone and never had the urge to get one. And if I left this job tomorrow, I wouldn't get another one. If I start responding to texts while I'm at work, all of the sudden I'm in a conversation and I can't get any work done because the damn thing is beeping at me.

Why am I like this? Because in my spare time, I like to be able to respond to people at my convenience. I spend every day at work following up on e-mails and phone calls in record time to keep other people happy. At home, I want to be left alone. I usually turn "the leash" off on weekends. Want to see me? Call my landline. This drives a couple of my "needier" friends batty ("I TEXTED YOU ALL WEEKEND?!?!?!?! WHERE WERE YOU?!?!?!") but that's their problem, not mine. They know where and how to contact me. I feel zero guilt about this.
posted by futureisunwritten at 9:03 AM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

And non-texters: What's so wrong with frequent-ish, low-level contact?

I am also busy. I have ZERO capacity for non-essential communication during the work day. My workday is currently 12 hours long. My social interactions are restricted to after work hours, at which point I am exhausted; phone calls are actually much more efficient so I prefer them. (Texting has always struck me as the purview of idle teens.)
posted by DarlingBri at 9:04 AM on February 8, 2012

What frowner said.

When I'm not busy, I'll text back immediately. However, if I'm into something, the texter can just as soon wait until I'm done.

Plus, I have a pay-per-minute phone. Each of those bad boys costs me 50 cents! Email me or facebook me, but don't blow up my phone with text messages, dammit! Most of my friends know this, but some don't quite grasp the concept, and it's very annoying.
posted by patheral at 9:06 AM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I understand this situation from both sides, I think. I am a frequent emailer but really don't care for texts. I don't respond to texts quickly in general since I don't have a smartphone and it takes a long, tedious time for me to type a reply. Some people text me all the time anyway; I just don't answer unless it is about something time sensitive, and assume we will talk about it in person. That doesn't mean I don't like those people, just that I think it'd be easier to have a conversation in a different medium.

I email a lot of little messages to my boyfriend and he doesn't answer all the time but when I've asked him says that he enjoys them even when he doesn't reply. I think you should write if you want to tell the person whatever you want to tell them than, not in order to get a response. (Again, this isn't true for more time sensitive issues, which need a faster reply.)

Based on my own experiences, I would recommend not sending messages too often (certainly not more than 1/day or so) so you don't feel like you're being clingy.
posted by mlle valentine at 9:14 AM on February 8, 2012

And non-texters: What's so wrong with frequent-ish, low-level contact?

I don't see the point when most people who text me (if not all of them) also have a smartphone and could email me instead. I don't have unlimited texting on my iPhone since it would cost me an extra $200 a year. I'd rather save up that $200 for my retirement or an emergency fund. So when someone sends me a barrage of texts, I text back (or, better yet, go right to email) and say: "I'm switching to email because I don't have unlimited texting." The only situation where I see the point of texting is when it's actually important to transmit a specific piece of information to someone immediately, and there's some reason why neither email nor a phone call is a good enough option. This is usually to coordinate meeting up at a certain time or place. That's fine. But aside from that, I just don't see the point. I realize you see things a different way. But you have to realize some people see things my way.
posted by John Cohen at 9:15 AM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Let me expound on the "I'M BUSY" remark.

If we're sharing a physical space or on the phone and you're chatting away, I can listen and talk or at least throw in a few grunts, while I'm doing something.

But with texting, I have to completely stop what I'm doing, pick up the phone, type in message, hit send, put the phone down and then return to what I'm doing. Frequently repeating that process gets old, really fast.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:18 AM on February 8, 2012 [5 favorites]

I think folks have done a good job of covering why you might not get a response right away. But -

1. It doesn't mean they are annoyed at you for texting, just because they're not responding. If anything, it's good, because it means they don't feel obligated to drop whatever they're doing that minute, and so are less likely to be irritated at the interruption.

2. If you're the kind of person who just really likes thinking of everyone and staying in touch and communicating and so on, you may also be very extraverted/outgoing in real life, and that will definitely come across. It'll probably limit your dating pool, but in a good way - limiting it to people who are interested in you. There's nothing inherently needy in liking to send people messages and info and cute videos, as long as you can handle them not responding and forgetting to watch the video, and as long as you respect their expressed preferences. If I tell you I don't like getting text messages because my phone is pay-per-text, send email instead. If I tell you that I don't usually check text messages right away because sometimes I don't notice my phone beep or I'm busy and forget, then call if you need an immediate response.

What's weird and needy/creepy in a dating sense is someone who's either very emotionally dependent on your actions (can't handle it if I don't text them back right away) or who's particularly dependent on YOUR actions - so, if you were totally reserved with everyone else, but I'm getting a 'thought of you when I saw this!' every hour on the hour I'm going to be worried that you're maybe making more of this than I'd like.
posted by Lady Li at 9:20 AM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm a texter, but texting for the sake of texting is not something I do. To me, texting is for things like "Running late - see you in 15 min" or "Pls remember to get coffee on yr way home" or What time are we meeting?" or "Hey, is the meetup still going on?"

If I get a text that's clearly time-sensitive, I try to respond quickly. Otherwise, if I'm busy doing something else, a response can wait.

Also, yeah - some people don't have unlimited text plans, and all that frequent-ish, low-level texting costs money.
posted by rtha at 9:20 AM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you are worried that you come off as electronically overbearing (e-verbearing?) with a new romantic interest, let the other person set the tone. If they text regularly, that's your green light to text them. If they don't, don't do so yourself.

Or you could, you know, talk to them. "Does it bug you if I text you?"

I would also treat most electronic communications as "fire and forget" unless it's actually important or time-sensitive. I've had the experience of sending e-mails that actually are kind of important, or at least worthy of a reply, and don't get one, or only get one after a month-long wait. This does bother me, but I'm getting better at not letting it bother me.
posted by adamrice at 9:21 AM on February 8, 2012

Everything on fake's list. Also, what reptile said, especially if both of you are on iPhones, because I've learned recently that unless both phones are connected to the Internet at that moment, the message disappers forever -- it does not get delivered the next time you're connected like a regular SMS (usually) would. I've had this happen twice in the past couple weeks, where people were like "hey you didn't respond to my text" and I was like "I didn't get it" so I finally figured out what was going on, and it was that damn iMessage.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:23 AM on February 8, 2012

I carry an iPhone but I don't give out my phone number. I'm on gchat but I never respond to you unless you're my wife. If you want to reach me and I am not physically present, you must email me. I have cultivated that for years. Even in my business. I don't do text. I don't do telephone. I don't do IM. You email me or you find me in person. I far prefer going to get coffee with someone for a chat over talking to them on the phone.

Why? Because I'm busy, dammit. I'm busy with my own thoughts and activities. When I have a moment to deal with outside influences, I'll check email and/or respond. I do not absolutely do not double exclamation point underscore all caps and sixteen point do not want to be interrupted electronically for anything short of an emergency.

And, to be honest, if our relationship would require the constant currying of a low-level contact with near-nil semantic content, I'm absolutely not interested. Not to be super insulting, but that kind of thing really sets off my lack of self-identity and confidence alarm bells.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:24 AM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

I just turned 25. I was hanging out with some people a few years younger than me (still in college) and they were tethered to their phones. Coooonstantly checking and responding and looking at twitter or whatever and I could tell it was very low level banter, but it totally made me feel like an old old person for not relating to them.

Like others have mentioned, I text when I have an objective in mind, like asking a question or responding to a question. There is maybe one person I'm close enough with that I might have a low-level banterish thing, but this doesn't happen that often because I couldn't be bothered. I do like to snail mail her though, because we both like letters and stamps and things, so I guess it's a matter of having a medium that's conducive to saying meaningful things. Texts are just the opposite. They are meaningless wisps of words and thoughts and haha omg lols.

So from a non-texter's perspective, I don't do low-level contact because there's no point and nothing is really communicated besides validating the fact that the other person exists. Too lazy to pull out my phone and play that game.
posted by hellomina at 9:25 AM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, SMS is not a reliable medium -- just because you sent a text doesn't mean that the recipient got it. Messages can be delayed hours sometimes or just disappear into the ether.

My phone used to do this. I realized when I hadn't gotten a text for a week that none of mine had been sent and I hadn't gotten any. Sigh. Sometimes they'd fire off in chunks later, sometimes never. Seriously, entire weeks without it working and no warning.

I also don't take my phone to work.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:25 AM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, I think it's respectful to communicate your friends' preferred communication modes. I have a few friends who are heavy texters, and I am completely happy to text with then whenever and wherever. I have other friends who Do. Not. Text. And I don't text them, because I feel that would be rude, to force my communication style on them. For them, I call. Or email. Or whatever they've shown/told me they prefer.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:30 AM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Non-texter here. Here's why I don't like texting:

1) Typing messages on my phone is really labor intensive and irritating for me.

2) It's annoying to have to keep putting my phone back in my pocket and digging it out again. I find texting much more intrusive than a phonecall, because instead of making one long demand on my time and attention, it makes a lot of little ones. I think texting is great for communicating short bursts of necessary information - I'm running late, where did we park, etc. But if I ever go back and forth more than three texts with someone, I just call them.

That said, I'm in a serious relationship right now, and I do text with my girlfriend. But I'm much less of a fan of the texting early on in dating, because it's usually really superficial communication, and it forces you to divide your attention all the time. I have a friend who stopped seeing a guy because, after one date, he sent a sequence of texts to the effect of "I'm cooking a chicken" and "chicken's done!" I, too, would find this sort of thing irritating from someone I just started dating, because what the hell am I supposed to say to that? "Congratulations?"
posted by Ragged Richard at 9:31 AM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also, I think it's respectful to communicate in your friends' preferred communication modes.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:32 AM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Try to think of it this way:

Texting is a good way of communicating something TO someone but not always for communicating WITH someone.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:33 AM on February 8, 2012 [10 favorites]

It also depends on what kind of phone your friend is on. I only became a happy texter after I got an iPhone, on which texting is really easy. When I was on my old dumbphone? Texting was a tedious pain in the ass, and I only did it when it seemed absolutely essential (and resented the person who made me do it, press the 2 key 3 times for C, then the 6 key 3 times for O, and then... ARGH THIS SUCKS.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:34 AM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

From the perspective of a low-texter...

Every text, phone call, email, facebook notification, tweet, IM, etc. is asking for a piece of my attention, and I'd guess I'm getting about 200-500 of these solicitations a day (and that's not even counting the stuff that I've filtered out so I don't have to deal with it). Even if I decide not to respond, it still takes a moment of my attention to assess and decide. Roughly averaged out, that's at least one interruption every 5 minutes.

I know some people crave these little interruptions -- and I know that there are times when I enjoy them, too. They can be fun and diverting, even addictive. But most of the time, I find them disruptive. Sometimes it feels like being surrounded by dozens of first-graders, all of whom are poking me and asking me questions and shouting to be heard. I put up with these pokes because the benefits outweigh the costs -- but that's not to say that the costs are not high. So if the benefits start evaporating -- in other words, if the messages you're sending are more frequent than they are useful/enjoyable -- I start to get annoyed. It doesn't take a lot to push me over that edge, because I'm already pretty close to maxed out.

I think that it would be polite (and perhaps reassuring for you) to remember that you're not the only one trying to get a little piece of your friends'/dates' attention. And if the silence rally drives you crazy, then you're always free to either send fewer messages or find someone else who enjoys them a little more.
posted by ourobouros at 9:56 AM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, if you have a crap non-smart phone, texting can be a major pain in the ass that you'll only want to do when absolutely necessary.
posted by saul wright at 10:04 AM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

non-texters: What's so wrong with frequent-ish, low-level contact?

The same thing that's wrong with tugging on my sleeve. That is, nothing or a lot depending on the context. Texting can be very immediate and close and fun - and it can be bratty and annoying, or controlling.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 10:20 AM on February 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

So, what would you be doing if this was 1999, when hardly anyone texted? would you be making a phone call every time you had a little something to share? Would you be sending frequent emails? Creating a pile of sticky notes to hand over in person? I'm asking because you say you like to communicate, but this method of communication is only possible because you're tethered to your phone and it's easy. The ease of texting also means that it is easy for some people to sort it into non-essential communication, and that means they can pay less attention to an SMS than an email or phone call. What you have invested in (which you have, since you want people to respond- in an hour or less, preferably) is viewed by them as noise. I think once people know you, little texts about random whatever can be fun, because the pressure is off (I hope).

However, if I were your prospective date, I might wonder to myself why you couldn't save whatever little tidbit you send once or twice a day until we met up again. I might feel pressured to respond to something that seemed like a non-essential poke, and that would stress me out. If I don't know you, I might be afraid of getting caught in a long SMS conversation in the middle of work. I might feel like you're one of those people who can never put their phone down or leave it at home, and that means that when you were out with me you might be paying more attention to your phone than me. If I don't respond enthusiastically to texts and you continue to send them, I'm not sure if you're insensitive to my communication style, or if the texts really are meaningless chit-chat, something I'm not interested in. I think that would be the biggest issue in a get-to-know-you situation- does the other person try to meet you halfway with communication styles, or do they try to force their style on you. You can probably imagine why it would suck to have someone tell you to never text them anything, and why it might be just as annoying for them to feel they need to respond in a timely fashion to whatever you've sent them. And you know, if it makes you crazy and insecure to send a text and not receive a response, you should probably chill out on the SMS for your own sake.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:22 AM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

And non-texters: What's so wrong with frequent-ish, low-level contact?

If it was important, you'd call me. Communicating via text or email implies that the answer can wait, or in the case of frivolity, the answer can just never occur.

When I'm balls-deep in a big programming job, I really do not care if someone's dog just did the cutest thing or someone thinks I should know they totally slept in or that someone's baby is still a little jaundiced but the nurse says that's pretty much normal. I generally don't care about those types of things anyway, but when I am doing something that actually matters, they become actively annoying.

Replying to trivial communications takes a non-trivial amount of time, which I would probably prefer spending doing something more important.
posted by Sternmeyer at 10:24 AM on February 8, 2012

Until fairly recently, my phone plan charged me 10 cents to open a text. Are your texts worth your friends 10 cents?
posted by hworth at 10:25 AM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I finally added texts to my phone plan because I had friends who could not understand that it COSTS ME MONEY each time they texted me. I was broke, I had a dumbphone (still am and do) and I resented when people sent me stupid texts that could have been an email, especially after being told that it cost me money. That was the biggest thing that annoyed me about texters.

But I do agree with everyone else, I tend to view texts as ways to get in contact or pass information that doesn't need an immediate response, or necessarily a response at all. My husband texts me everyday when he's leaving work or if he's running late. It's just an FYI and not something that needs a response.
posted by katers890 at 10:32 AM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

And non-texters: What's so wrong with frequent-ish, low-level contact?

Your texts cost me money, because I did not sign up for the texting package with my cell phone carrier. There are myriad free ways to get in contact with me. Use one of those.
posted by sugarbomb at 10:35 AM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm like you in that I like talking a lot, and communicating, and when I find music or a link or something I think a friend would like, I want to share it with them. But, as another datapoint - I also have a really crappy phone. It doesn't have T9, or even make parentheses, let alone a keyboard. So I can't even respond ":)" to a text! The screen is less than 2 inches wide. So I am just not going to have a real text conversation with anyone. It's not set up for it. It's a flip phone with a dumb interface, so checking it takes longer than it would on smartphones, and it saps the already poor battery. The save as draft function is really bad too, so what happens a lot is, I get a text, I start laboriously making a one-key-at-a-time response, and in that time, the person has texted me again - but I can't see it unless I lose the entire message I just started writing. Frustrating, makes me not want to deal with replies or send-lots-of-texts-at-once people. On top of that, I have terrible reception, and my phone turns off randomly. So my phone could be right next to me and I still might not see a text for hours.

Other than that, what everyone else said, if it's important you'd call, texting costs some people extra money, some people can't do too much / any email or facebooking or texting at work, and so on.

I do write on people's facebook walls when those moments strike me, or send quick emails - but I don't expect responses. And when I receive them, I usually "like" it on facebook, or say something like "cool, thanks for thinking of me!" or "thanks for the link!" in a facebook comment or quick email as appropriate. However, I often do this hours or days after it was originally posted. This is pretty much all I expect from others when I share with them.
posted by fireflies at 10:36 AM on February 8, 2012

I am also a texter, and my sort-of-SO is not. When I asked him why text contact bugs him, he said he feels pressured to respond and that the time it takes away from working is frustrating. "You're special," he told me. "You deserve more than just a text."

So that's starting to sink in a little.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:42 AM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I find in incredibly rude when I am talking to someone and they break our conversation to play their phone every five minutes. I have a good friend who does this and it makes me want to throw his phone out the freaking window. What, is the thing we are doing right now not entertaining enough for you? You can't stay focused on what we are doing right now? Am I that boring and unworthy of your time?

I do not want to be that person.
posted by Jilder at 10:44 AM on February 8, 2012 [9 favorites]

Another non-texter. Like others said, I already get a lot of requests for my attention from my business -- clients, prospects, and total strangers poking me all day wanting me to respond to their needs. When a romantic hopeful sends me non-essential questions or little quips every day and expects a response, it's not endearing. It's stressful.

The way to win romantic points with me would be to save up all that conversation fodder in days of blissful silence, and then call to invite me out for coffee. And then, finally, we can both sit at a table and look at each other and ignore our phones and concentrate on our real, uninterrupted conversation.
posted by ceiba at 10:50 AM on February 8, 2012 [7 favorites]

Non-texter for the most part here.

The problem with FREQUENT texts is that they come across as someone wanting to have, like, a conversation, and I feel like "if what you want to do is talk, why aren't you CALLING me?"

For me, if it's written, it's a message that either is "just for you to read, you don't have to respond," or "something for you to get around to when you get a minute and I'm writing it down so you don't forget". If you want an immediate response, or it's time-sensitive, call me. (Maybe text me if you don't hear from me after a little while to nudge me, but that's it.) And if you just want to chit-chat, call me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:57 AM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you want people to chit-chat and share links with who loooove SMS, use Twitter.
posted by desjardins at 11:11 AM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

The concept of the 5 Love Languages is mentioned a lot in AskMe. I think a similar thing is going on here. Maybe "Frequent, Low-Level Communication" makes you feel more connected to people because there's an ongoing exchange, and the content of the message isn't really the point. Your texts and emailed links are your way of saying something like, " "I thought about you when we weren't together! That's proof that you exist in my mind even when I'm not with you! Now tell me that I exist in your mind!" But other people may need "Overtly Meaningful Conversation" or "Time Spent Doing Stuff Together" in order to feel connected (and because of the sheer energy involved, this kind of communication will happen less frequently). You feel like their non-response is a slight, but to these people, messages about "nothing" are almost a mockery of "real" communication.

If you can identify how other people like to show their attention and care, you may realize they're not actually ignoring you.
posted by Mila at 11:13 AM on February 8, 2012 [9 favorites]

I hate texting except when exchanging brief essential info.

A few months ago I talked to a guy on okc who texted me every day. We had not even met. At first it was kind of cute, but I soon became very uncomfortable and ultimately decided not to meet him.

I think the answer to your problems is just to not use texting as a communication tool in early dating. It's like one of those hand gestures that means "hi" in one country "and yo I saw your mom last night dude and we were making out on top of an alpaca" in another country. Until you know where you are (whether you are dating a texter or non-texter) just don't do it.
posted by bunderful at 11:36 AM on February 8, 2012

I think you presume that others use texting the same way you use it. As a counter example, I use it with colleagues and family as a way of telling me time sensitive or important things. It ranges from "pick up milk on the way home" or "the server is unresponsive" but it is never "wassup!?!".

As such, I have my mobile set to alert me for texts but not for emails. Now and again I need to gently explain to someone how I use text messages.
posted by dgran at 11:36 AM on February 8, 2012

The thing about texting is that it is an immediate-response mode of communication. It calls out "Hey look at me! I'm an emergency! I need to be dealt with immediately!" And when the communication in question is none of those things, I get irked. Particularly because my work subsidizes my cell and doesn't pay me for texting, so it costs me money. Honestly, it does strike me as super-needy, or at least one element of attention-seeking behavior that annoys me. Especially when it occurs during the workday--demanding that I stop everything for a casual conversation during the work day strikes me as really rude unless your work schedule is exactly opposite mine (as my dad's is), and even then it better be less than 5 minutes or during lunch or something.

I do text sometimes, but it is for things that actually are timely and faster to communicate than they would be by phone: "Running late, which entrance are we meeting at again?." "You wanted olives on your pizza right?"

If non-responders make you as crazy as you say, the real answer is not to text those people. Call or email.
posted by tchemgrrl at 11:56 AM on February 8, 2012

General rule to avoid appearing crazy/needy: do not allow yourself to exceed 2 unanswered text messages on the same subject/day.

If I look and see 6 texts in a row from someone without me responding to any of them, it just reads as they have nothing to do but sit there and text me over and over and it comes off as needy. Same as seeing like 4 missed calls. If it's not an emergency, it just seems desperate and kind of crazy.

That's not necessarily true, but it's just a visual thing. That's how it reads.
posted by nathancaswell at 12:01 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Until fairly recently, my phone plan charged me 10 cents to open a text. Are your texts worth your friends 10 cents?

If I go over my low monthly limit (which I might not realize at the time), Verizon charges me 50 cents for each text. So if someone texts me once and I respond once, I have to pay a dollar. I could easily have to pay several dollars just to have a fairly brief interchange ("Where are you?" "I'm almost there" "OK, see you soon" "Yeah, see you in a few," etc.). This is why I tell people not to text me unless it's important and there is really no other way to reach me (I can't be called on the phone for some reason, the person can't email me because they don't have a smartphone, etc.).
posted by John Cohen at 12:02 PM on February 8, 2012

It is interesting to note that people who dislike texts often prefer calls. I am the opposite — I hate calls (I have to be somewhere I can hear you, it takes a long time, etc.) and love texts (10 seconds of typing, woo!). So perhaps you could ferret out what kind of person you are dealing with by asking about phone calls rather than being like "Is it ok if I text all the time?"
posted by dame at 12:31 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

About half of the texts I get feel pretty self-centered to me, because the people I know who are compulsive texters don't really ask many questions (other than, "How's it going?" which I hate trying to answer in 160 characters). They mostly just end up making lots of slightly banal statements, which are supposed to be self-evidently relevant I suppose. But often it just ends up sounding like a variation of: "Look at me! Look at me! Look at me!"

And a lot of the rest of the non-self-centered texts I get feel like trying to share the inside of an egg with a full-grown ostrich: there's not enough space to carry on a real conversation, and every time you try and shift to find a bit more space, someone's claw gets in your eye.
posted by colfax at 12:31 PM on February 8, 2012

I think that texting constantly is sort of an addictive (like, borderline pathological) behavior and the inability to control that urge seems worrying.

Anyway, I only skimmed so I'm not sure if someone else already said this, but- I know my friends who send out random, unimportant messages are often just bored and fishing for conversation with anyone, not necessarily because they really want to talk to ME. And I know if I reply to one offhand message, it's not just going to be ten seconds lost. It's going to be potentially an hour of back and forth pointless communication. Like someone else said, it really is self-absorbed. The few people I know who do this are all wildly insecure and seem to crave constant attention. And no one wants to feed the attention-starved, because it just exacerbates it. The more of someone's pointless texts I respond to, the more they send me. Not replying to all of them is the only effective way to keep it from escalating. It's annoying. I think it's essentially the same as, back when there were only phones, the difference between people who liked to call each other "just to talk" and those who preferred to use the phone only when there's a purpose, such as making plans or asking a question. It's just a personal preference, but it used to be easier to get away with before cell phones because you could just say you weren't home or didn't hear the phone. Now that people assume you got their communication, you have to feel guilty for not wanting to participate all the time? Ugh! This is why I only check my phone like, twice a day. Fuck that noise. Literally.

Lastly, I have also noticed that the people who send me pointless texts are often guilty of mass texting. They send the same thing to five people at once, hoping one of them will reply. Once you do that, it's really not about the other person at all, it's just about you fishing for attention. I don't know if you do this, but once I've caught onto the fact that someone is doing it to me, I feel like I can ignore all texts from them from then on with a clear conscience. So, I really hope you don't do that. Anyway, as far dating goes, chilling out with the texting is how you show someone you respect their boundaries and you're not desperate, clingy, needy, or flat-out crazy. That's how you deal with the silence: "Hey, I don't care that this person hasn't responded immediately. Because I'm not desperate, needy, clingy, or crazy. I have a life and other things to occupy my brain."
posted by GastrocNemesis at 1:28 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Look around for a community that loves to text – IRC, some fast-moving and chattery Reddit community, people tweeting on topics you like – and let that world siphon off your urge for self-expression. Find the people who enjoy that kind of communication rather than trying to foist it on people who don't take to it naturally.
posted by zadcat at 3:06 PM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

I like texting very much for communicating basic information, especially if it involves something I might need to refer to again like a time or an address, and some occasional jokes or messages once in a while can be nice, but the expectation of a timely reply fills me with a kind of dread that feels like writer's block. I didn't want an assignment! Why are you giving me an assignment? I mean, I understand, but the stress is still there. I try to avoid IM clients entirely, except with co-workers at work (where there are often things to say that can only be said silently, or actual work items to figure out), because in the absence of voice- or body-driven conversational cues or some super-compelling thing to talk about, keeping up some kind of chat just seems draining, even with people I can talk to in person all day long. I used to look available on facebook because I kept forgetting to change the relevant setting, but I did not actually want to chat on facebook. Not a fan of services that secretly default to making you available for instant messaging.
posted by Adventurer at 3:43 PM on February 8, 2012

For me, it's about choice. If I'm going to communicate synchronously with someone, I want to have chosen to do it. I don't like IM conversations because I can never tell when someone is done talking to me. I don't like many text message conversations because, usually, I'm in the middle of something, and I have to shift gears into "texting mode," when previously I was in "sewing mode" or "gardening mode" or "playing on the floor with the baby mode." If it's urgent, I'll deal with it, but if you just want to chat, saying, "Hey, is now a good time to chat?" is better -- then I can say, "Yes!" or, "How about in an hour?"
posted by linettasky at 3:56 PM on February 8, 2012

I'm an odd one out in this thread as while I didn't become a habitual "texter" until recently, it never really bugged me if someone texted me or didn't respond if I texted them.

And then, I had a baby.

Suddenly, texting was THE best way to get in touch with me as I couldn't necessarily hold down a phone conversation at any given time and it is far easier to write a short text than to sit down and try to compose an email. My son is out of the newborn "time bomb" phase in which extreme measures had to be taken to never, ever accidentally awaken him but two things have held over form those days that affect the way I communicate:

1. My phone is ALWAYS on silent. Always. If it's in my pocket, it vibrates and I will answer it if I can. If not, I will call you back. This has been a huge boost to my sanity that any phone calls are always done on my time. I'm never, ever rushing to answer the phone with a cranky baby also demanding my attention. The humans in front of me have priority and the ones on the phone can wait for me to get things sorted before calling them back.

2. I txt a LOT more. This still isn't a whole lot in the grand scheme of things, my main form of communication is talking to friends via gChat or very short phone conversations throughout the day - but if I need to tell someone something quickly, I will txt instead of calling. I've noticed a huge spike in txting with new-moms, primarily because it's silent and you can do so one handed.

So, I'm clearly not in the demographic of "people you might be dating" but my point is that there are a lot of factors that go into your choices of how you're going to interact with the outside world. Answering texts/phone calls rides on a lot more than just "Do I like the person on the other end of this conversation?" for a lot of people.
posted by sonika at 4:53 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Put me down as another non-texter. See my AskMe, which is essentially the opposite of yours here.

I can't stand having conversations by text for all the reasons mentioned above. It's time consuming, fiddly and I don't like the expectation that I will always be available whenever people want me to be available. My phone is also always on silent and in my purse so I often don't see calls or texts when they come in. I am fine with answering an important question by text (example of a non-important question being "hey, what's up") or exchanging information but anything else is an annoyance for many reasons. It has caused me an untold amount of stress because of family members expressing to me repeatedly that I hurt their feelings when I don't reply to their constant texts (I will only reply to texts that are asking a question or conveying information). I have told them that I DO NOT LIKE to text and I would prefer a phone call if they want to chat but it falls on deaf ears. I have almost gotten to the point of ditching my cell phone altogether and just having a landline because some people just aren't getting it - it isn't personal, it is a different style of communication. And to reiterate what someone said above, if I were to always reply to these people in an effort to not hurt their feelings (because I don't want to hurt people's feelings), then the texts would never end. And I am just not ever going to be a person who carries on conversations by text.
posted by triggerfinger at 6:26 PM on February 8, 2012

I'm not a big texter. It may be because I'm in my mid-30s and therefore did not come of age in the texting era. Texting is cumbersome to me--I will use it to find someone in a crowd, or to send a picture. I can't stand the dumb abbreviations or the autocorrect mistakes or the fact that it takes me twice as long to tap out a text as it does to type an email.

Also, I turn my ringer off at work so I can work. If people need to reach me during the day, they can call me on my office phone or email me. My husband and I will chat via email throughout the day--the constant, low-level communication you describe, but because we're at work, we can't just sit there on our phones all day, and email is free.
posted by elizeh at 7:56 PM on February 8, 2012

WRT lots of email to the same person, I forward links and things with greater frequency than many people. Generally, the 2nd or 3rd time I send such a thing to a new acquaintance, I invite them to tell me to stop and/or never acknowledge the links because I'm not generally trying to start a conversation on the topic.

In other words, I give people the chance to negotiate a mutually comfortable communication style.

Like others, I would limit texts to new romantic candidates to one per day or one per reply but I'm old & married.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 11:25 AM on February 9, 2012

« Older Help me find a laptop for programming   |   Should I untie my tongue? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.